January 27, 2009

Urgent alert: Lawmakers must say 'NO' to midyear community college cuts

Source: NYSUT News Wire

In an urgent letter to state lawmakers, NYSUT is urging the Legislature to stop the governor's proposed mid-year cuts for community colleges. At a time when SUNY and CUNY community colleges have record enrollments, a midyear 10 percent cut in state base aid would be devastating and bring programs to a screeching halt in the middle of the school year.

The NYSUT letter says enacting midyear cuts would be 'irresponsible,' considering that a federal stimulus package will likely be enacted by the middle of February and bring significant relief. The letter also quotes President Obama, who has pledged federal support for community colleges and acknowledged their importance during an economic crisis.

Key lawmakers and the governor are pushing for the midyear $1.7 billion deficit reduction plan to start moving next week, with final approval by Feb. 11 - so it's crucial for lawmakers to hear from us now. For SUNY community colleges this would mean an $11 million cut. For CUNY community colleges, the mid-year cut would be $4.2 million.

Members should contact legislators themselves and ask parents, students and community members to do the same. Follow the link below to send a free fax to your state representatives - and use the "SHARE" button to pass it on to your contacts via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools.


STOP MID-YEAR CUTS TO SUNY AND CUNY COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN THE DEFICIT REDUCTION PLAN

NYSUT urges the Legislature to reject the proposed mid-year cuts of 10 percent in state base aid to SUNY and CUNY community colleges in the Deficit Reduction Plan. For SUNY community colleges, this equates to a mid-year cut of $11 million and a $4.2 million cut for CUNY community colleges.

While NYSUT recognizes the serious nature of the state's fiscal situation, these proposed cuts are counter-productive and will only serve to exacerbate our growing economic problems. It is the wrong time to cut back on state funding to these campuses. We strongly believe that this economic crisis is precisely the time that the state must ensure that these public higher education institutions have the resources they need to accommodate the growing demand for the vital services that they provide to the public. The following underscores this point.

• Community colleges are the gateway to achieving a college degree for hundreds of thousands of citizens in this state. This is especially true in times of economic crisis.

• During economic downturns, the demand for the academic services provided by these campuses goes up dramatically as people lose jobs and seek further education and technical skills to become more marketable in a tightening job market.

• Community colleges are often the only choice for many qualified high school graduates who cannot afford private colleges and are shut out of SUNY and CUNY four-year institutions due to their lack of capacity to place them. This is especially true for economically disadvantaged students and minority students. Over half (51 percent) of all Hispanic and 44 percent of all African American undergraduate students first enrolled in community colleges. If these cuts are enacted, the doors to a college degree will be shut for many of our most vulnerable students.

• Community college administrators have already set their budgets and class schedules for the spring semester while experiencing record enrollments and already facing enormous difficulties in accommodating students' needs with fewer faculty and resources.

• If these proposed cuts are enacted, once again, the state will shift the burden through higher tuition on the backs of students and working families who simply can't afford it especially in these tough economic times. Our community colleges are already among the most expensive in the nation.

• Local businesses need and expect a well educated, trained and skilled workforce to help their businesses succeed and to help foster local economic growth.

• NYSUT strongly believes that enacting mid-year cuts is irresponsible considering that a federal stimulus package will likely be enacted by the middle of February. This federal aid will bring significant relief to redress our state's deficit. In addition, we are disrupting our students' education through higher tuition and fees, less class offerings and larger class sizes, less full-time faculty and longer graduation times without asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.

President Obama has publicly recognized the important role that these institutions play in their local communities and has pledged federal support for them. He recently stated, "As we move forward, we cannot neglect our community colleges. These schools produce the backbone of our workforce: nurses and firefighters, computer programmers and farmers. And as our changing economy demands a more skilled workforce, America's community colleges must be at the forefront of our approach to higher education and economic competitiveness. Eighty percent of America's fastest-growing jobs require at least a 2-year degree. You and I know this; businesses know this. Yet for too long, Washington has treated community colleges as a stepchild of the higher education system, instead of essential resources for training and preparing the workers of tomorrow."

NYSUT strongly agrees with President Obama and urges our state to join with him in supporting our community colleges.

NYSUT STRONGLY OPPOSES MID-YEAR COMMUNITY COLLEGE CUTS AND URGES THE LEGISLATURE TO REJECT THEM.