ALBANY, N.Y. March 9, 2023 — Declaring that New York’s public higher education institutions strengthen the state’s workforce and create opportunity so students can get ahead, more than 500 New York State United Teachers’ activists rallied today in support of a New Deal for Higher Education.
“Our SUNY, CUNY and community college systems contribute to the vibrancy of our communities,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta at the union’s Committee of 100 lobby day. “They produce the workforce of tomorrow and drive our state’s economy. Investing more in our public higher education systems is a benefit for the entire state — and it’s an investment that voters see as smart and long overdue.”
Flanked by students, college and university faculty and professionals, as well as Senate and Assembly members on the Capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase, Pallotta said recent polling underscored that voters clearly see value in a New Deal for Higher Education. NYSUT’s New Deal proposal includes $1.44 billion more in operating support for two- and four-year colleges and SUNY hospitals, as well a $267.2 million boost in support for students’ mental health, counseling and other programs. In addition, NYSUT is pushing for an additional $3 billion to ensure that students can earn a college degree without incurring crushing loan debt.
“The proposed Executive Budget provides targeted funding to a select few campuses and falls far short of the investment desperately needed by the vast majority of our campuses and our three public teaching hospitals. Nineteen campuses are facing multimillion-dollar structural or projected deficits, caused in large part by more than a decade of budget cuts and austerity. And there is no mission funding for our hospitals,” said United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal. “SUNY desperately needs this aid to stabilize our campuses and our hospitals at a time when the state has a $8.6 billion surplus. We urge the governor and legislative leaders to make this year the year to truly invest in SUNY.”
“One of the first acts of the original New Deal was signed by President Roosevelt 90 years ago today, not long after he left office as New York’s Governor. So, it’s fitting that we call today for a new program of investment in a great public good: A New Deal for Higher Education. Gov. Hochul and the Legislature can take their place in history, invigorate our workforce and economy, and provide a better life for hundreds of thousands of CUNY and SUNY students, their families, and communities, by making this $4.7 billion commitment to New York’s two great, but long-underfunded public university systems. Top-quality, free public higher education should be available to every New Yorker.” James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing 30,000 faculty and professional staff at CUNY.
Joshua Chan, SUNY Student Assembly Senior Director of Government Relations said: “Funding higher education is vital. Education provides opportunity to achieve the freedom and liberty that people are yearning for. It is a solution to the systemic injustices we see in our society.”
“The Governor’s executive budget follows a failed blueprint that shifts more costs onto students and their families, underfunds public colleges and universities, and doesn't take the steps necessary to reverse falling enrollment,” said Sonya Concepcion, a NYPIRG member and student at SUNY Cortland. “When all the buzz is about making New York state more affordable, higher education should be one of the first places we look. That's why students must see a New Deal for public higher education in the final budget!”
A poll conducted by Hart Research Associates in mid-January found that 85 percent of New York voters support the proposals set forth in the New Deal for Higher Ed, including 50 percent who strongly favor it. The poll also found that 90 percent of voters favored additional funding for SUNY hospitals; 87 percent looked favorably on proposals to increase operating aid; and 86 percent supported providing funding to increase student supports.
The SUNY, CUNY and community college systems also enjoy broad support from voters, with 78 percent saying the state’s public education systems benefit the state. Half of the state’s voters say they — or their families — have personally benefitted from the SUNY and CUNY systems.
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.