Testimony of Interim Chancellor Christoph M. Kimmich before the Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Ways and Means Committee on the 1999-2000 State Executive Budget

February 9, 1999 | Speeches and Testimony

Thank you, Chairman Stafford, Chairman Farrell, and members and staff of the Senate Finance Committee and of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for the opportunity to testify before you and for your long-standing support. I am joined today by my colle agues from the University. I would ask them to introduce themselves.

Before going any further, I take this moment publicly to thank Governor Pataki and you for approving our collective bargaining agreements on the final day of last year’s session. This was an extraordinary feat. It is an example of how government — the division of budget, the legislature, and the governor — can respond swiftly and creatively to the interests of its citizens. We’re not just grateful. We’re impressed!

Since I appeared before you a year ago, CUNY has taken important steps. The institution is significantly more stable now than it was then. I shall draw your attention to what we’ve done as my testimony proceeds. And I shall start with the most gratifyin g part for us — the awards our students, faculty, and programs have won.

Two students at Queens College, Tara Helfman and Joseph Stern, were selected as British Marshall Scholars for doctoral study in England next fall, out of only 34 in the country. A team of City College chemical engineering students won the 1998 National De sign Competition sponsored by The American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named Dr. Judith Summerfield, a member of the faculty at Queens College, the 1998 New York State Teacher of the Year. She follows two other CUNY professors — one from Lehman, the other from Brooklyn College — so honored by the Carnegie Foundation in the last four years. A major historical study written by Dr. Yaffa Eliach, a member of the Brooklyn College faculty, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Brooklyn College’s Freshman Year College program was chosen for the prestigious Hesburgh Award by the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association/College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA/CREF).

U.S. News and World Report ranked the John Jay College graduate program number one among 3,500 criminal justice programs. U.S. News and Business Week listed Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business among the best in the country. Cha nge Magazine ranked the Graduate School’s doctoral programs in the arts and humanities 16th in the nation.

At Hunter College, research conducted by Distinguished Professor Marie Philbin has shown that it is possible to block all inhibitors of nerve regeneration. That’s good news for those suffering from spinal cord injuries, which are notoriously hard to trea t, and a splendid example of the work our faculty does.

We are gratified at this recognition of our students, our faculty, and our colleges and expect that such accomplishments and such recognition will continue.

The CUNY Budget Request

The University’s 1999-2000 Budget Request, adopted unanimously by the Board of Trustees last October, is before you.

This request — The CUNY Commitment to New York: Standards, Opportunity, Service, and Accountability — represents a new departure in budget planning at CUNY. Unlike previous budget requests, which reflected priorities for no more than twelve month s, this year’s request offers a multi-year budget plan that signals our intention to renew and reinvigorate the University by expanding opportunities for students, faculty, business and industry. Milestones in this process are: (1) clarification of the respective missions of our constituent colleges, including a clear set of educational objectives and appropriate admissions standards; (2) expansion and refinement of the University’s applications of educational technology; (3) development and applicati on of performance indicators to measure institutional achievement; and (4) development of an efficient and cost-effective approach to budgeting and resource allocation. For each of these, we have set performance measures linking expectations with outcomes .

Our Budget Request is predicated not on what might be added to the budget but on what the budget will buy. We intend to give the people of New York, as represented by the Governor and the Legislature, a clear sense of where The City University is heading and of what the tax levy funds they invest in CUNY will yield. I ask you to consider our request seriously.

The Executive Budget

The 1999-2000 Executive Budget recommends $974 million for the senior colleges. That is virtually identical with the 1998-1999 funding level, which for all practical purposes was the same as 1997-1998, 1996-1997, and 1995-1996. It acknowledges neither t he priorities the University set out in its Budget Request nor the various projected increases that inflation and mandatory costs will create.

The budget has remained flat as our costs have risen. The University has paid an enormous price for this unchanged operating budget. CUNY has lost hundreds of full-time faculty and staff to early retirement incentives offered primarily to cover contin uing budget shortfalls. The loss of so much of our senior faculty and staff, who are replaced by adjuncts or novices if they are replaced at all, erodes the quality of educational services. The City University cannot remain a respected institution of hi gher learning unless we begin to address our budgetary needs.

CUNY perceives three important discrepancies between its Budget Request and the recommended budget of the Executive branch:

  1. The University requested an increase of $86.7 million in state funds for the senior and community colleges for the first year of a five-year plan that projects a 5% increase annually. The request was for resources sufficient to make necessary investm ents in areas that we have identified as of paramount importance.

    Thus, we requested funding for the recruitment and retention of high-quality, full-time faculty, a foremost means of strengthening programs. Everyone knows that excessive reliance on adjunct faculty is a significant threat to program quality in higher ed ucation. The CUNY Cluster Model, a strategic hiring plan based on consortial alliances among the University’s campuses, will enable us eventually to reach a goal of a 70/30 ratio of full-time to part-time faculty.

    We also requested funding to establish Writing-Across-the-Curriculum programs at all of our colleges within the next five years. This program will be linked to a Writing Fellows Program, which places trained CUNY doctoral students on every campus to assi st faculty in teaching good writing in all disciplines.

  2. Proposed reductions in tuition assistance will penalize CUNY’s neediest students. If enacted, these measures will reduce 117,000 current awards to approximately 32,000, and $129 million in aid to about $30 million, a decline of approximately 75% — and well below the estimated cut-back of $36 million total projected by HESC. We strongly support incentives to encourage the timely completion of an undergraduate degree but we believe there are more effective and less damaging means of encouraging full -time study and expeditious advancement toward graduation than restricting tuition assistance.
  3. The proposed transfer of funds for the CUNY collaborative programs to the Board of Education is unwarranted and unwise. It damages our efforts to work together productively with the public schools.

Critical to our attempts to raise standards are programs that prepare high school graduates for college-level work and enable them to navigate the transition from high school to college. Our collaborative programs have succeeded and continue to succeed w ith thousands of students. The Board of Education has welcomed partnerships with us and many of these programs have been expanded and diversified. Transferring the funds that underwrite these collaborative projects will damage both these projects and oth ers that we shall want to develop. As long as funding for these collaborative programs remains in CUNY’s budget, we give these programs top priority.

I shall expand upon these discrepancies in a moment. Let me note meanwhile that we are concerned about a pending shortfall in our collective bargaining costs. The pay-bill the Legislature approved last summer provided for the current year’s cost of $55 million. While the Executive Budget carries these funds over into next year’s base budget, it has not added the $10 necessary to meet the obligations of our collective bargaining agreements in the coming year. We have asked that this be corrected durin g the 30-day amendment period. We have also asked that the Executive consider our request for an increase in community college base aid of $150 per FTE student.

CUNY Budget Request : Areas of Paramount Importance

Our Budget Request addresses programmatic priorities of paramount importance to us. I have mentioned the Writing-Across-the-Curriculum initiative and a proposal to recruit and retain high-quality faculty. Three other undertakings are urgently in need o f funding.

  1. The University has mounted a major effort to improve teacher education. Our teacher education programs must graduate teachers who are competent to prepare students for the new graduation standards set by the Board of Regents. Our schools of educat ion have raised their standards for admission, enlarged the general education component of their programs, especially in mathematics and science, and strengthened articulation with community colleges, where many prospective teachers start their college ed ucation. We have developed incentive programs to attract top-flight students to careers in education and are working on a leadership program at the doctoral level. For all this we need funding.
  2. We are deeply committed to supporting the economic development of New York City and New York State. For example, City College has recently become home to what will be the largest facility for biotechnology research in the country, a tribute to state -of-the-art faculty research at CUNY, which is the most intensive and most concentrated in New York State. And the Borough of Manhattan Community College has taken the initiative in linking up with downtown corporate partners to promote incubator busines ses in the emerging digital video industry. These efforts too require funding.
  3. Finally, CUNY is determined to become a leader in educational technology, including libraries and information systems. Unless we move ahead, we risk falling behind. And we have moved ahead. I recently saw a demonstration of Write-Site, a web-base d writing program developed at the University that tutors students in grammar and composition, guiding them to correct usage and offering helpful explanations along the way. The program is available to our students at any time and any place; it is an ex cellent adjunct to classroom instruction. But now we need to update our technical infrastructure, modernize and computerize our libraries, and move forward with instructional computing and distributed learning. Again, I ask you for funding.

CUNY Budget Request: Operating Priorities

The Graduate School, John Jay College, and Medgar Evers College face critical mandatory cost increases. The Graduate School will soon move into a new and larger facility, which is also technologically more advanced, requiring an additional $4.1 million i n operating funds. Funding is required for new leases at John Jay College and Medgar Evers College. Enrollment at these colleges has grown in recent years and both urgently need additional space. Medgar Evers, as a recent piece in the press vividly bro ught home to us all, suffers from a lack of capital infusion and requires immediate swing space while renovations and repairs are underway.

Financial Aid

The Executive Budget proposes to reduce the maximum award of TAP funds from the present 90% of tuition to 75% and to raise the standard for full-time status from a load of 12 credits to 15. While the proposed changes will affect students in colleges and universities throughout New York State, of course, they will hit CUNY students particularly hard. CUNY students are older and much poorer than those at SUNY or in the private sector. Only 25% of CUNY under-graduates correspond to the traditional college student profile — 18 years old, current high school graduate, full-time student. Here’s the rest: 43% are 25 or older and 41% come from households with incomes of less than $20,000. Half of them are not native speakers of English; 59% work regularly while they study for a degree; 53% are the first in their families to attend college; 62% are female. Only 40% of our full-time students enroll for as many as 15 credits in any given term. While some may respond to the proposed restrictions by shoulde ring heavier course loads, many simply cannot and will therefore find themselves precluded from college study.

The Executive Budget proposes to reward students who graduate “on time,” defined as four years for a bachelors degree and two years for an associate degree. The definition is a myth. Nationwide, students normally take five years to earn a bachelors deg ree. And other measures will hasten progress toward a degree more effectively than restricting tuition assistance. We need to offer more sections of required courses, from which students now find themselves closed out; to improve freshman-year programs ; to add evening, weekend, and distance instruction; and to make student services more available and more effective. Students seeking opportunities to complete their programs on time must be given these opportunities. If they do their part, we must do ours.

The proposed TAP changes also magnify the need for part-time aid. The Executive Budget has long limited funding for aid to part-time students to $14.6million. Students who work are particularly painfully affected, as are students who support children. T hey take fewer courses while they are enrolled and often sit out a semester to earn money that will enable them to go back to college. If more part-time support were available, they would get through faster. And we believe that savings are possible. No one knows exactly how part-time aid affects persistence, academic performance, completion rates, and cost. No one knows whether it affects first-time freshman the same way it affects students who have completed, say, 24 credits. A pilot program would tel l us, and the University is prepared to undertake such a program.

We would also suggest that the InVEST program be expanded. The program currently allows public-assistance recipients to enroll in occupation-related courses if they are employed for at least 20 hours a week and, at the end, assists them in finding a ful l-time job. We propose that the program be extended also to persons with low incomes who would, with some financial assistance, be able to enroll in work-related programs both credit and non-credit.

Collaborative Programs

The Executive Budget recommends that $5 million in University funding for collaborative programs with local schools be transferred to the New York City Board of Education. The rationale would appear to be that these earmarked funds are better administere d by the Board of Education. We are unpersuaded. The collaborative programs are initiated by the University in line with University specifications; they involve University faculty and staff; they run smoothly and well; they are extraordinarily effective. And they have earned wide external recognition.

The way to raise standards at the University is to work with the high schools as they undertake to raise standards. 50% of the CUNY freshman class comes to us directly or recently from the New

York City high schools, and the University is dedicated to ensuring that high school students prepare themselves adequately for college while they are still in high school.

By way of illustration, I offer you these three resoundingly successful collaborative programs: College Now; the Summer Intensive English Language Program; and the CUNY high schools.

College Now, which the late President Leon M. Goldstein founded 18 years ago at Kingsborough Community College, in partnership with the Board of Education, offers high school students early experience of college-level work: skills testing, course work, or ientation, and advising. Students who take advantage of this opportunity require fewer remedial courses once they get to college, persist in college longer, and graduate at a higher rate. Imitated throughout the country, the program was extended this se mester to all 6 CUNY community colleges and to 49 high schools in New York City. We plan to extend it further.

The Summer Intensive English Language Program for Entering High School Students offers rising 9th graders a six-week intensive summer language experience on three CUNY campuses and a weekend program year-round. We now propose to extend the program to stu dents entering 12th grade who require a modest amount of intensive work to prepare for the new English Regents Exam. High schools affiliated with Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hostos, Kingsborough, LaGuardia, Medgar Evers, and Queens Colleges continue to graduate high school students at rates up to 40 points higher than other city high schools and to serve as laboratories for the CUNY schools of education. These high schools will be very useful in CUNY’s new initiative to improve teacher education.

In the spirit of the late Stanley Fink, the renowned Speaker and a staunch champion of CUNY, who proposed the collaborative programs fifteen years ago and, with bipartisan support, nurtured them over the years, I urge you to restore this item to the University’s budget. The collaborative programs are Stanley Fink’s legacy to his alma mater.

Capital Budget

The Executive Budget confirms the State’s commitment last year to funding a five-year capital program, and we are grateful to the Governor and the Legislature for having taken this step. The University will have $150 million in bond funds next year for p rojects at the senior colleges, which will enable us to maintain our plant and to meet public standards for health, safety, and access for the disabled. We continue to upgrade our technological infrastructure, essential to both teaching and research. Hi gh on the list approved by the Legislature last year are the renovation of Powdermaker Hall at Queens College, the construction of the West Quad building at Brooklyn College, and a new facility for John Jay College.

The Executive budget provides $10 million in bond funds for projects at the community colleges and Medgar Evers College, for which we shall seek matching funds from the City.

Conclusion

The University’s 1999-2000 Budget Request describes new initiatives at the senior and community colleges by which the University embarks upon a long-range plan for restoring and rebuilding our institution. We ask for your support to help us raise standar ds, to provide opportunity by improving student preparation and expanding collaborative programs with the high schools, and to render service by promoting research initiatives and workforce development programs critical to the economic future of the State and the City. We expect to account for ourselves by reporting to you next year how the University has raised standards, provided opportunity, and rendered service, and we look forward to doing so.

Altogether, the University’s request comes to an additional $86.7 million in State funds to cover the operating costs at the senior colleges and to implement program initiatives at both the senior and community colleges.

Finally, we urge you once more to modify the proposed changes in TAP. We believe that, with your help, we can improve graduation rates and arrive at a more rational system for funding part-time students without inflicting the damage that the proposed cha nges threaten. CUNY students are trying to better themselves through education. No penalty and no dishonor should attach to part-time study. Given the opportunity, the part-time student, like a marathon runner, will break the tape and win a degree. Op portunity, after all, is what you fund and, through your generous efforts, what we offer at the City University of New York.

Higher education brings higher incomes both to those who earn degrees and to those who merely attend college. It brings in funds for sponsored research, promotes economic development, enables scientific discovery, and performs an enormous variety of comm unity services. CUNY is called upon to preserve and protect the investment of public funds and to produce a strong rate of return. And CUNY delivers.