November 30, 2021

Unions to lawmakers: Do not shortchange higher ed

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Caption: L-R: United University Professions President Fred Kowal, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, and Professional Staff Congress President James Davis. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Before the COVID–19 pandemic, New York’s institutions of higher education were “reeling from years of austerity budgets that held SUNY and CUNY instructional budgets flat as operational costs continue to rise,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta today in testimony before the state Assembly Higher Education Committee.

The hearing, convened by committee Chair Deborah Glick, D–Manhattan, addressed specifically the impact of the pandemic on the future of higher education.

“While we grapple with how to handle the social, economic and emotional challenges posed by COVID–19, one thing we must not do is shortchange our public institutions of higher ed,” Pallotta said.

Alongside Pallotta, United University Professions President Fred Kowal said the union’s NY HEALS initiative calls for “increased funding for essential programs like TAP after years of flat or reduced budgets, in order to reverse the decades-long disinvestment in the state’s higher education system.”

“We need a New Deal for CUNY,” said President James Davis of the Professional Staff Congress, who also testified. The union-backed New Deal for CUNY bill in the state Legislature (S.4461/A.5843) would mean free tuition, more full-time faculty, mental health counselors and academic advisors, increased pay for adjuncts and increased investment in infrastructure and maintenance.

Pallotta also testified that, in the wake of the pandemic, declining or uncertain enrollments at community colleges undercut the per-student state funding method.

"We must develop a better funding model for community colleges and insulate them from shortfalls created by enrollment fluctuation," he said.