Leaders of NYSUT higher education affiliates said Monday lawmakers need to increase funding to colleges and universities in the 2022-23 state budget after more than a decade of neglect.
“We are thankful for many of the initiatives contained in this year’s executive budget proposal, but more is needed to reverse the impact caused by years of underfunding,” said Andy Sako, president of the Faculty Federation of Erie Community College.
In testimony submitted to the joint virtual legislative budget hearing on higher ed, Sako said, “We will once again be looking to our friends in the Legislature … as we struggle to emerge from the pandemic.”
Historically, Sako said, during periods of economic downturn, enrollment at public colleges and universities increases. COVID-19, however, has reversed that trend, “and we have seen enrollment plummet, particularly at community colleges.”
Whether the decline reflects pandemic fear or economic loss, “we must continue to support our community colleges until we emerge from this dark time,” he said.
“Campuses continue to face difficult decisions concerning the potential elimination of programs and declining student services due to inadequate resources,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, who submitted written testimony.
“Our SUNY and CUNY systems have long provided a pathway to the middle class for so many New Yorkers,” he said, “and they must have access to the funding necessary to offer the high-quality programs and services students rely on to prepare for their careers.”
United University Professions, representing academic and professional faculty at SUNY campuses, and the Professional Staff Congress, representing faculty and professional staff at CUNY, each requested more than $250 million in additional funding for their campuses.
“While we thank the governor for addressing longstanding issues like closing the TAP Gap and investing in the Excelsior Scholarship, her proposal falls short when it comes to providing SUNY with the dollars it needs to overcome a decade of underfunding and flat budgets,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal.
UUP seeks additional resources for SUNY campuses and SUNY’s three public teaching hospitals, located in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse. This includes $100 million in direct support to campuses to attract and retain students, and $155.8 million for public teaching hospitals and to account for debt service, a cost that only the SUNY hospitals bear.
The PSC seeks $253 million to stabilize and increase funding for community colleges and hire an additional 1,385 full-time faculty and 541 mental health counselors and academic advisors.
Combined with the investments in the executive budget, the PSC’s request would fund year one of the New Deal for CUNY legislation, which seeks to restore CUNY as a tuition-free institution for undergraduates.
“Today,” PSC President James Davis said, “faculty, staff and students throughout the state call on the governor and lawmakers to reaffirm the values of equity, opportunity and access to quality higher education.”