March 26, 2024

Unions, lawmakers rally for higher education funding in the final state budget

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations
Unions, lawmakers rally for higher education funding in the final state budget
Caption: NYSUT President Melinda Person rallies for higher education funding with lawmakers at the state Capitol.

Albany — New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person, United University Professions President Fred Kowal and Professional Staff Congress/CUNY President James Davis were joined by lawmakers and advocates at the state Capitol on Tuesday in calling on the Legislature to hold firm on increased funding for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges in the state’s final budget.

Union leaders noted that although SUNY, CUNY and community colleges received historic funding increases in last year’s budget, the money wasn’t sufficient to repair years of disinvestment. At least 18 state-operated campuses are facing financial deficits, causing them to announce cuts to vital courses, supports and programs for students.

This year, the Senate and Assembly each proposed millions of additional dollars in their one-house budgets, and NYSUT, UUP and PSC are strongly urging the Legislature to ensure state higher education funds are sent where they are needed most.

The crowd representing CUNY and SUNY students, staff and faculty urged the governor and lawmakers to stand strong so that these funding increases are included in the final budget deal, a vital first step in finally supporting our world-class institutions at the levels our students and state deserve.

New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person said:

“If we are going to ensure our colleges are prepared to educate and get students ready for the careers of tomorrow, we need to ensure they have the financial resources to secure the technology, equipment and faculty they need. Every student deserves access to affordable and accessible higher education. That means public colleges and universities that don’t break the bank, and that are located within the local community so that individuals from every stage of life have educational opportunities.”

United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal said:

“UUP certainly appreciates the strong support from the Legislature when it comes to properly funding SUNY, which lawmakers demonstrated in their one-house budgets. By including millions of additional dollars in direct aid, they have shown that they truly understand the necessity of properly funding SUNY so our cash-strapped campuses can reverse more than a decade of drastic state aid cuts and underfunding. We urge the leaders of the Senate and Assembly to push to include their one-house budget proposals in the final enacted budget, for this funding to be directly allocated to campuses to close budget deficits, and that Gov. Hochul embrace this necessary step to build a better future for all of SUNY.”

Professional Staff Congress President James Davis said:  

“There are precious few days before the ink goes dry on the state budget and we need to make sure any fiscal plan fully funds New York’s public universities. That’s why we came to the state Capitol today, joining students, our SUNY colleagues and our champions in the state Senate and Assembly. These legislators have rightfully called for the maximum possible increase in investment in CUNY. Many of them attended public universities and they know the struggles faced by our students, our union members, and the communities that we serve. We need them to stay strong and fight to fund CUNY in the final budget.”

Senate Higher Education Chair Toby Stavisky said:

“Quality, accessible higher education: How do we get there? We get there by increasing the operating aid. We get there by restoring the cuts to the capital construction projects. We get there by remembering that it’s really about the students. This is a united front. The Assembly and the Senate — together we can accomplish great things and fulfill our mission of maintaining quality education.”

Assembly Higher Education Chair Patricia Fahy said:

“As we look to these final days of the budget, it is imperative that we increase funding — at SUNY, CUNY, the hospitals, and of course, that we turn on the TAP — because we need to tell the students we have their backs. Seventy percent of students are telling us across this country that cost is the number one factor in why they're not attending school. We must demonstrate to them that we're going to keep college affordable, that we want them and we're going to keep it welcoming.”

Sen. Robert Jackson said:

“New York's commitment to public higher education isn't just a duty; it's our compass, guiding us towards a future where every student has access to opportunity, regardless of their background. Our universities are not just institutions; they are engines of opportunity and economic vitality. It's time for a transformative investment in our higher education system, a true New Deal that propels our students forward and fortifies the future of our state. To my colleagues I say, let's stay strong for more funding and stronger support of public higher education. Together, let's make it happen!”

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo said:

“As an alum of Binghamton University and former UUP member, I strongly support the effort to include significant increases for our public universities, community colleges and hospitals in this year’s state budget. These institutions are invaluable community assets providing numerous educational and economic opportunities. Our community colleges, in particular, continue to play an under-appreciated role in addressing critical workforce shortages. They stand ready to play a pivotal role if we can provide them with the resources they need.”

Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College President Dante Morelli said:

“Investments in community colleges are an investment in our communities and New York state. Community colleges afford our diverse student population the opportunities to succeed in life.”

Assemblymember Marianne Buttenschon said:

“I went through this [higher education] process, starting as a student intern and completing my career as a dean. I can tell you that education is something that no one can take away from you. The foundation is education. To the academics, to the students, to the union leaders: thank you for your leadership.”

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas said:

“Education is the literal key to unlocking opportunities and the pathway to the middle class for New Yorkers. When you invest in our educators, when you invest in our CUNY and SUNY staff, when you invest in our CUNY and SUNY graduates, and when you invest in our students, you are investing in the future of New York. And I am betting on the future of New York.”

Sen. John Liu said:

“After two decades of continued disinvestment in higher education in this state, we finally turned things around last year, and when we turned things around, enrollment decline also turned around. But now is not the time to let up. We have to continue that trend. It can’t be a one-year turnaround. We need to turn it into a 10-year turnaround. Because education is the best investment. Education is the best economic development deal this state or any state could ever have.”

Sen. Iwen Chu said:

“Every student in New York state deserves to have their dream. And we are here to make sure that every student — at CUNY and SUNY colleges and schools — has the resources to do that; that our faculty and teachers have the resources; and that our buildings are equipped, updated and modernized to make sure that our students can learn … Today we are here to fully fund public higher education.”