ALBANY, N.Y. Jan. 27, 2010 - Proposed higher-education cuts - which if approved by state lawmakers would continue an alarming trend of deep reductions to the SUNY and CUNY systems - would deny students access to an affordable college education, stall economic recovery efforts and prevent displaced workers from re-entering the job market, New York State United Teachers testified today.
"The state's public higher-education system has sustained a lopsided share of Albany's budget cuts in recent years," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Our SUNY, CUNY and community colleges are the cornerstone of the state's economy. While NYSUT fully recognizes the serious economic problems our state faces, efforts to make New York the epicenter for high-tech research and jobs will not materialize without an investment in its public college and university system, which must be at the heart of any economic plan."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta noted that in the past two years, SUNY and CUNY four-year institutions have been cut by a "staggering" $575 million. If the governor's latest round of proposed higher-ed reductions were to be approved by the state Legislature, cuts to the state's public four-year institutions could total $808.3 million for the fiscal years 2008-09 through 2010-11, Pallotta said. The impact would be especially devastating since they would come at a time when both SUNY and CUNY are experiencing unprecedented enrollment growth, he said.
"While faculty and staff at these institutions have done miraculous work in maintaining quality academic programs for their students with significantly less state resources, the fact is that we are now at the breaking point," Pallotta said in testimony before the state Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees. "Too many enrolled students are continually subjected to fewer full-time faculty, larger class sizes, and cannot get the classes they need to graduate on time. Additionally, as private-school tuition soars and public-college enrollment booms, SUNY and CUNY schools over these past two years have been forced to deny admission to thousands of deserving and qualified students. That's simply wrong."
Pallotta also called on lawmakers to reject Gov. Paterson's proposed cut of $56.7 million to SUNY and CUNY community college base aid. If approved by the Legislature, base aid would fall by $285 per full-time equivalent student. Coupled with a midyear reduction of $130 per FTE student, the proposed cut would drop the state per-student expenditure to $2,260 - the lowest in a decade.
"These job-killing cuts will slow New York's economic recovery and do irreparable harm to students and the neediest New Yorkers," Pallotta said. "Hundreds of thousands of people depend on these institutions as an entry point to achieve a college degree or to get specialized training. In fact, the demand for the academic services provided by these campuses has gone up dramatically as people have lost their jobs and seek further education and technical skills to become more marketable in an extremely difficult job market."
Pallotta said NYSUT is committed to working with lawmakers on both the state and federal levels to find additional revenues so that drastic cuts in state aid for pre-K-through-postgraduate education could be avoided. He added the union would work with others in the labor movement to identify areas where efficiencies and savings could be achieved without a disruption to vital public services.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.