February 07, 2022

NYSUT testimony: Support for SUNY, CUNY is critical to COVID-19 recovery

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations
state budget

ALBANY, N.Y. Feb. 7, 2022 — The 2022–23 executive budget proposal for higher education is a dramatic improvement over previous years, but more support is needed to address years of chronic underfunding of SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges and hospitals, according to testimony by NYSUT submitted for today’s joint legislative budget hearing on higher education.

In the testimony, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta argues that persistent underfunding and austerity budgets have resulted in a steady decline in critical supports for students. At community colleges, the state is not meeting its statutory obligation to cover 40 percent of operating costs for these campuses. What’s more, the full-time equivalent (FTE) funding model — which allocates state funds based on a set amount multiplied by the number of FTE students enrolled — penalizes community colleges faced with declining enrollment, despite their need to maintain high-quality, diverse programs for their current student bodies and to attract new students. NYSUT is advocating that community colleges receive 100 percent of what they were allocated in the 2018–19 budget, before they were ravaged by COVID-19.

“Campuses continue to face difficult decisions concerning the potential elimination of programs and declining student services due to inadequate resources,” Pallotta said. “Our SUNY and CUNY systems have long provided a pathway to the middle class for so many New Yorkers, 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.”

NYSUT’s full written testimony can be found here.

In a bright spot, NYSUT supports commitments made in the budget proposal to close the TAP Gap this year. The union also backs funding to hire additional full-time faculty at both four-year and community colleges.

However, challenges remain at present. For example, CUNY has only 35 full-time faculty for every 1,000 full-time equivalent students, while ratios for mental health counselors and academic advisers across both the state and city systems remain troubling — despite wide agreement that the pandemic has exacerbated underlying academic and social-emotional challenges students face.

For SUNY hospitals, the elimination of state mission funding four years ago has resulted in dramatic underfunding of these critical public health care institutions, which have been the backbone of the state’s efforts to battle COVID-19. NYSUT is calling for restoration of this critical mission funding to the 2017-18 level of $87.9 million.

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.