ALBANY, N.Y. February 11, 2013 - Two consecutive years of flat funding are jeopardizing SUNY's and CUNY's missions, while the state's failure to invest in its community colleges is forcing tuition increases that are pricing some students out of a higher education, New York State United Teachers said today.
"Two straight years of flat funding to SUNY and CUNY - coming after years of deep cuts - is not a recipe for either student success or the economic resurgence this state needs," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "The state must make a greater financial commitment to public higher education."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta, in testimony to the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, said state support for SUNY and CUNY operating budgets has been severely reduced over the last decade. State support for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges has been slashed by $1.7 billion since 2008 alone, even as tuition charges to students and their families have increased.
"The revenue from tuition increases should be going to hire more full-time faculty and improve student academic programs and services," Pallotta said. "When students pay more, they should get more. Instead, we see tuition revenue making up for what the state should be investing in its SUNY and CUNY campuses."
Meanwhile, Pallotta noted that, while base aid to community colleges increased last year, the base level of $2,672 per student is still $403 lower than in 2008, meaning cash-strapped local governments - which are hamstrung by the property tax cap have little choice but to cut programs and raise tuition.
"Community colleges are the gateway to higher education for many New York students," Pallotta said. "Unfortunately, spikes in tuition stemming from state cutbacks are pricing too many students out of an opportunity to get a degree."
Pallotta also again pressed lawmakers to "do whatever is necessary" to ensure that SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn remains open, and to invest more in the SUNY hospitals in Syracuse and on Long Island. SUNY hospitals have suffered a 50 percent cut in funding since 2008.
"The simple truth is that our SUNY hospitals cannot carry out their critical public health care and academic missions on this level of state funding," Pallotta said.
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.