Albany, Jan. 16 - NYSUT today launched a sustained campaign on behalf of public higher education that demands an end to chronic underfunding of SUNY and CUNY and a proactive plan for reinvigorating the state's public colleges and universities.
The campaign, "Keep New York A State of Mind," calls for creation of an endowment to rebuild CUNY and SUNY's academic programs through the addition of full-time faculty and professional staff, along with additional state investment to strengthen and expand student financial aid and opportunity programs.
NYSUT's campaign asks legislators to significantly invest in SUNY and CUNY, and reverse the debilitating cuts that limit opportunities for students and erode public higher education's essential role as an engine of equality in New York state.
Over the last five years, CUNY and SUNY have suffered nearly $2 billion in cuts - driving up tuition and endangering quality affordable higher education for all New Yorkers.
The union is calling upon the state to support a Public Higher Education Quality Initiative, developed in concert with its higher education affiliates that would:
- create an endowment to restore and build SUNY/CUNY academic departments through the addition of full-time faculty and professional staff, ensuring the quality programs, courses and mentoring students deserve;
- increase operating aid to CUNY and SUNY four-year campuses and raise community college base aid;
- invest strongly in student financial aid and opportunity programs; and
- update and reform the state's Tuition Assistance Program.
"NYSUT has consistently advocated that our public colleges and universities are vital community assets, but they have been seriously underfunded and undervalued resulting in too many students finding their opportunities limited and on-time graduation threatened," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "For the sake of our students and our future, we need to 'Keep New York a State of Mind' by investing strongly in SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges."
"The mission of New York's public university system is to provide an affordable, accessible education of the highest quality to our students, but that mission has been hamstrung by budget cuts totaling in the billions," added United University Professions President Fred Kowal, head of the union that represents academic and professional faculty at SUNY. "It is time for our state leaders to do the right thing and re-invest in New York's public colleges and universities. Increasing funding and creating an endowment to restore SUNY and CUNY academic programs are positive steps that will help protect and enhance the quality of public higher education across the state."
"An endowment for public higher education is an idea whose time has come," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY. "New York state must find a way to re-imagine public funding for public higher education. CUNY's funding from New York state is now below 1990 levels, while tuition has risen 43% just since 2008. Students are paying for the lack of State support. If New York wants to remain the opportunity state, it must find a way to resolve this funding crisis. An endowment that generates immediate funds, especially for new full-time faculty, is the right solution. We urge New York lawmakers-upstate and downstate, urban and rural-to embrace this visionary proposal."
Ellen Schuler Mauk, who represents community colleges on the NYSUT Board of Directors, noted: "College faculty and staff too often are overloaded by the constant need to do more with less. It's time for New York state to ensure that all our students have access to the quality support from faculty and staff that they deserve."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said the union would press legislators to support the Public Higher Education Quality Initiative. "Our public colleges and universities are under intense pressure to eliminate programs and courses, erode quality and slash opportunities for students in need," he said. "We are sounding the alarm that it's time to stand up for quality public higher education."
NYSUT's legislative campaign on behalf of public higher education will be supported by an ongoing communications campaign in social and traditional media. (See www.nysut.org/qualityhighered).