ALBANY, N.Y. Feb. 6, 2014 - New York State United Teachers today urged state lawmakers to support a new public higher education quality initiative highlighted by new investments in SUNY, CUNY and community colleges, and the creation of an endowment to restore and rebuild academic departments through the hiring of full-time faculty and staff.
In testimony to the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, NYSUT said the proposed 2014-15 executive budget holds year-over-year funding flat for the state's network of public higher education institutions - the third consecutive year that four-year campuses have seen flat funding following two years of devastating cuts. Since 2002-03, the state's share of SUNY's operating budget has plummeted from 63 percent to 37 percent, with the additional burden being passed to students and their families. The state's share of CUNY funding has dropped from 61 percent to 52 percent during that same period.
In addition, NYSUT also renewed its push for a greater state investment in SUNY hospitals, which are lifelines in many communities. In particular, NYSUT called on legislators to enact the Brooklyn Safety Net Hospital Plan, and again join the union and its affiliates in fighting to prevent SUNY Downstate from being closed or privatized.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the state's public higher education institutions lost $2 billion in funding over the last five years.
"These unacceptable cuts have forced our public colleges and universities to eliminate programs and courses and slash opportunities for students," Iannuzzi said. "Even worse, state cuts have shifted the burden of paying for college to families, and that cost is soaring out of their reach. Public higher education is a path for those seeking to be part of the middle class and a great equalizer for those already in the middle class. Yet, the lack of state support is putting SUNY, CUNY and community colleges out of reach for far too many families."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the union and its higher education affiliates are calling on the state to create an endowment program dedicated to hiring more full-time faculty and professionals to teach students and conduct vital research. He noted New York state's public higher education institutions are falling behind in the percentage of full-time faculty when compared to peer institutions across the country.
Pallotta also told legislators that other state university systems have significant endowments which put them at a distinct advantage over New York state.
"New York has a terrific faculty, but we have lost many excellent professors and researchers to university systems of other states which maintain endowments of well over $1 billion," Pallotta said. "If New York is going to be competitive in the global information economy, it is imperative that it rebuild our academic departments and invest in intellectual capital at both SUNY and CUNY."
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.