Testimony Before The New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee

February 2, 2000 | 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 colleagues from the University and they will introduce themselves.

I am deeply honored to serve as the sixth Chancellor of the City University of New York and especially so because I am advised that I am the first alumnus to hold this position. I attended City College when tuition was free, (class of ’63) and even that was too expensive for me. I had other academic options, but only CUNY was within my economic range.

You can appreciate my emotions when I returned to the Great Hall of City College this past fall. City College is very much emblematic of the resurgence of CUNY. With the support of the Board of Trustees, we are working with the Interim Administration at City College to explicate the College’s options and to ensure that a strategic plan is developed. We intend to begin a search for a new president by the end of the spring semester and we want to do so with an invigorated planning process already underway. As we work with City College on the substantial challenges I am reminded of its many assets. The City College faculty includes four members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences and three who are in the National Academy of Engineering. City houses the only New York State Center for Advanced Technology, its Photonics Center, which does research on optical imaging techniques for-state-of-the-art medical applications and disease detection. Just this year the New York City Partnership, Chamber of Commerce and nine of New York’s academic medical institutions joined CUNY in a consortium to create the New York Structural Biology Center, now located on the City College campus. The student body hails from over 100 countries and speaks almost as many languages – a truly international campus. Surely the talents at City College are a major component of the College’s future directions and goals.

On a University-wide level CUNY has benefited greatly from the findings and recommendations of the Task Force on the City University of New York, chaired by Benno Schmidt, Jr. The Task Force Report, which underscores the necessity and importance of the University for all New Yorkers, has motivated a rethinking of institutional organization, or “system architecture,” to strengthen CUNY’s fundamental mission of providing highly valued educational opportunity to all who pursue public higher education.

In the aftermath of the Task Force Report, and with the advent of new trustee leadership, the University is moving to define itself within the leading public institutions of higher education in the country. To realize this goal we have reviewed and realigned admissions and assessment policies, taking the first steps toward thoughtful coordination of the missions of our twenty campuses. We have also begun to make clear how commitment to quality translates into actions that ensure the continuing established reputation of our best programs and the improvement of those programs that most directly serve to enhance CUNY’s role in graduate, undergraduate, and professional education. During the fall semester the University’s trustees approved measures designed to reaffirm and strengthen student transfer between community and senior colleges, policies to assess the success of remedial treatments, and a revamping of the testing program, including the use of nationally recognized indicators as one factor in student assessment.

CUNY’s renewed commitment to quality has also found voice in expanded collaboration between the University and the New York City Board of Education. The College Now program, for example, currently operates in nearly half of the City’s high schools. The leadership of both the New York City public schools and CUNY is committed to establish an earlier intervention, beginning in the ninth grade, in virtually all the City’s high schools if support is forthcoming. Our Language Immersion programs, which the University runs for college students at eight locations, also reach into the high schools to give immigrant New Yorkers the best opportunity for success in their new country. These should be further replicated to meet the pressing needs. We also understand our obligation to attract and prepare the most able and promising students for the teaching profession. We will face a crisis of significant proportion in New York State unless we can place well educated and motivated teachers in every classroom. It requires a resolve on our part to do more and do it better and we accept this challenge. In the next few weeks we will elaborate further upon new structural relationships between these two large systems, the City University and New York City public schools.

These changes in the University have taken place in an environment of deep self-reflection and intense public scrutiny. They underscore, perhaps more than ever, that the University’s dual concerns of access and high academic quality are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, preserving the accessibility of educational programs and intellectual resources is central to the University’s effort to sustain and nurture quality in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, to respond to the City’s and State’s needs for collaboration and skills preparation.

The Executive Budget

The 2000-2001 Executive Budget recommends $1.012 billion for the senior colleges, a net increase of $28.2 million or 2%. The proposed budget provides important stability, new support, and a context for improvement at a University very much in need of sustenance.

Several significant and positive actions are recommended by the Governor in the Executive Budget for CUNY, including:

  • Funding of the annualized costs of the senior colleges’ 1999-2000 collective bargaining needs;
  • Funding to operate the new facility at the Graduate School;
  • Funding for OTPS inflation, salary increments, and other mandatory needs of the colleges and University; and
  • Funding for academic support services in the budget of the New York State Education Department, earmarked for CUNY and available to both the senior and community colleges.

These actions are encouraging and we appreciate the support in the Executive Budget. One recommendation of the Executive Budget which concerns us is the proposed reduction for the senior and community colleges, which had been provided to the University in the 1999-2000 Adopted Budget for full-time faculty, Special Programs and childcare. We are eager to work with the Office of the Governor and the Legislature to address these concerns.

Accompanying the Executive Budget is an Article VII Bill, which recommends a change in the State Education Law to allow SUNY and CUNY to modify tuition levels in graduate and professional programs. This would allow consideration of demand, cost, and other market factors. I support this concept, to the extent that any increase in revenue is used to strengthen and enhance the academic program, rather than substitute for State support. If the legislation is adopted I will recommend to the Board of Trustees that the University identify sources for scholarships and other financial aid to ensure that the neediest students are not precluded from pursuing a graduate degree in a specified field.

The Executive Budget supports CUNY’s pilot part-time TAP program that was initially approved in last year’s Adopted Budget. During this pilot, part-time students who have earned a minimum of 24 credits will be eligible for a pro-rated TAP award.

Finally, the Executive Budget proposes two mechanisms in support of the professional development of Teachers in K-12 – the Teachers of Tomorrow Scholarships and the Teachers of Tomorrow Vouchers. The University is very interested in working to ensure that CUNY undergraduate and graduate students are fully included in these innovative approaches to the teacher shortage crisis.

CUNY Budget Request: Operating Priorities

1. Funding for Full-time Faculty

In the fall of 1998, 48% of undergraduate course sections were taught by adjunct faculty at CUNY senior colleges and 49% at the community colleges. Between 1980 and 1999 the number of full time faculty dropped from 6,900 to 5,600, a loss of approximately 20%. While CUNY has benefited from a highly talented adjunct faculty, the University’s excessive dependence on adjuncts diminishes the quality of its students’ educational experiences. An institution that relies excessively on adjunct faculty cannot offer, in regular sequence, the courses students need to proceed steadily toward graduation. The reliance on adjunct faculty also reduces available opportunities for student advisement and assistance that a strong critical mass of full-timers can provide and injures the University’s programs before national accrediting bodies.

The University must re-build the faculty ranks with high-end scholars and teachers who have established and growing reputations in their disciplines and, simultaneously, recruit young, promising faculty at the assistant professor level to replenish and renew the base of full-time faculty, consistent with the CUNY Budget Request.

2. Flagship Environment

It is essential for CUNY to build national prominence in professional and graduate programs through the creation of a “flagship environment,” a focused strategy to enable CUNY to take its place among the top public institutions of higher education in the country. A flagship environment is defined by an array of high quality, heavily-resourced programs distributed at campuses across the University. Our plan is to draw on the expertise of nationally prominent, external consultants to assess the University’s unique resources for providing high quality programs and to determine the investment and emphasis to be placed on basic, applied, and interdisciplinary research.

An important component of CUNY’s flagship environment is cluster hiring, a strategic effort to bring to the University significant sized cohorts of new faculty in programs where high academic quality allows CUNY to play a unique role among institutions.

Creating a flagship environment at CUNY also requires support for doctoral students. The University must also be able to recruit the best doctoral candidates by providing tuition waivers and fellowships on a competitive basis. Related to the creation of a flagship environment is the planning underway for a University-wide Honors Academy. The Academy will build on the unique resources of the University and of the City. Drawing on faculty from the undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, it will provide honors students a special opportunity to benefit from expertise across the campuses and from cultural and educational organizations throughout New York.

We are working to improve teacher education. Our teacher education programs must graduate teachers who can prepare students for the new graduation standards set by the Board of Regents. Already our schools of education have raised their standards for admission, enlarged the general education component of their programs, especially in math and science, and strengthened articulation with community colleges, where many prospective teachers start their academic careers. We have developed incentive programs to attract top students to careers in education and are working on a leadership program at the doctoral level. Our commitment is manifest in the recent creation of a new senior level position, University Dean for Teacher Education to oversee teacher education at CUNY.

3. Community College Base Aid

The community colleges are essential threads in the fabric of CUNY. For many of our students, they provide the first doorway to a higher education and greater opportunities, professionally and economically. CUNY is unique among systems of higher education in the country in that our community colleges are fully integrated with our four-year institutions in planning, strategic initiatives, and day-to-day work.

The University requested a Base Aid increase of $150 per FTE for the community colleges. This would bring the base aid level from the current $2,125 to $2,275 per FTE . The community colleges would use this increase in support of the priorities articulated in the University Budget Request, including full-time faculty.

4. Supporting Academic Achievement

Supporting academic achievement is a fundamental priority of the University for it strengthens academic programs, and ensures the high quality of the educational experience for all our students. It is not enough to offer exceptional classroom lectures and laboratory instruction. We must ensure that our students have the expected pre-collegiate preparation, the necessary study skills, and the appropriate levels of advising and tutoring to succeed in college, and these experiences must be accessible to all.

We are very pleased that the Executive Budget provides for academic support services at the senior and community colleges, earmarked for the University in the budget of the State Education Department. We will hire full-time and part-time academic advisement personnel, tutors, and peer counselors.

We are working to extend the “College Now” Program into every public high school in New York City, and to develop a College Tomorrow program that will extend this program into the ninth grade. CUNY is also primed to expand the Language and Skills Immersion Programs, developing a model of year-long skills immersion for students who need remedial instruction beyond the summer or inter-session.

Academic support will be strengthened by the availability of additional waivers for CUNY doctoral students; matching support for federal financial aid dollars that come to the University through the College Work Study program and the Perkins Loan Program; and the replication of the Assistive Technology Service Center at Queens College, which accommodates the needs of students with disabilities.

5. Improving the Undergraduate Experience

In addition to full-time faculty, the colleges need academic support personnel – college laboratory technicians and higher education officers – whose services are critical to both students and faculty in the classroom in the labs and on research projects.

Two important initiatives are underway to improve the undergraduate experience. At the November meeting of the Board of Trustees the University adopted a resolution to ensure the seamless articulation and transfer of students who graduate from our community colleges and enroll in baccalaureate programs at one of our senior colleges. This resolution was long overdue and I know that many of you applaud the University’s action. A new on-line system will provide accurate, current information to students and faculty about the articulation of courses and course requirements at every CUNY college.

The other initiative is the outcome of a Board resolution to implement a Writing Across the Curriculum program at all CUNY Colleges. This program uses specially trained graduate students, placed as Writing Fellows on all the undergraduate campuses, to support faculty in integrating writing-intensive assignments in all courses. The goal of the program is to encourage students to “write, write, write” and to provide consistent feedback on their writing skills.

Part of the undergraduate experience are our opportunity programs, the Special Programs, SEEK and CD, designed to provide access to higher education for students who are academically and economically disadvantaged. I want to underscore my commitment to these programs and to the very motivated students who enter the University through SEEK and CD. These students are exempt from the new admissions policy. We have been diligent in building on existing structures to meet their needs and to ensure that they achieve the success they deserve and their main goal, a college degree.

6. Economic Development

We have a deep commitment to the economic development of the City and State. We have initiated discussions with the New York City Investment Fund, an investor network of industry and corporate leaders that backs innovative businesses in New York City which have the potential to create jobs for residents. An incubator initiative will bring capital and know-how to incubator related enterprises.

  • Incubator Facilities – We are working to develop partnerships with emerging companies in the areas of biotechnology and new media. These partnerships will integrate the talent and support of the CUNY intellectual and research environment with the entrepreneurial spirit of small companies in areas that are important to the economy. Borough of Manhattan Community College has led the way on this model of collaboration and several of our colleges are moving in this direction.
  • John F. Kennedy, Jr. Institute for Worker Education – This institute could continue the work that John F. Kennedy, Jr. began at the University in support of health care and educational professionals who work with the developmentally disabled.
  • Photonics Research Center – This existing research center at City College is providing pioneering research on the use of light as a less invasive method of disease detection.
  • Software Institute – In September the University established the Institute for Software Design and Development at the Graduate School. A central core of the work of the Institute will be pairing promising undergraduate and graduate students in computer science with emerging software companies.

I am pleased to report that CUNY has established a new Business Leadership Council, chaired by Lewis Rudin, with top level Chief Executive Officers of major corporations in New York. This Council is working with and advising us on a variety of workforce related issues, enabling CUNY to draw upon their talent and assistance in ways that will greatly benefit our students and our academic program.

7. Educational Technology/Managing Data

Support for educational technology, including libraries and information systems will enable CUNY to plan for the future.

The University will establish home pages for the largest courses. We also will provide professional development opportunities to ensure consistent and quality training and mentoring for faculty and staff involved in instructional design and pedagogical issues relevant to instructional technology and presentation of distance learning coursework.

State of the art management information systems are critical to the University’s ability to establish standards and evaluate program and institutional performance. Effective strategic planning depends on reliable data to inform the development of sound policy.

The Capital Budget

The Executive Budget authorizes funding to continue, for a third year, the authorized $1.0 billion capital plan to modernize the University’s physical plant. Significant progress is already being made in upgrading our campus infrastructure to provide safe, accessible and educationally appropriate facilities for our faculty and students. The FY 2000-01 Budget will allow us to continue a planned program for structural and mechanical system upgrades and the replacement of obsolete facilities, including the provision of state of the art technological improvements at several of our campuses.

Conclusion

It is time, for many reasons, to change the conversation about CUNY as we capitalize on our assets and draw on the extraordinary talent within CUNY.

Last week I had the experience, when taping a TV show, of interviewing four recent graduates of CUNY, Zorayda Cocchi, an occupational therapist, Aravind Mallipudi, a systems administrator, Ori Elan, a chemical engineer, and Leslie Cunningham, a job developer. In the course of these interviews I learned a good deal about their lives, about their hopes and dreams and about the obstacles they had overcome to complete their education. CUNY has more than its share of students who are new immigrants, who are older than traditional college students, and poorer, who must meet work and family obligations while studying, and struggling, to earn a college degree. They are extraordinary people, coping and behaving in extraordinary ways. Almost 200,000 students are currently pursuing their dreams at CUNY, and we must ensure that they are not disappointed.

In the last ten years unprecedented wealth has been created in this country. I think it is safe to say that at no other time in our history has so much wealth been created in so short a time. Yet huge income gaps remain and the country is still divided into “haves” and “have-nots.” Many of the states have returned some of their surpluses to higher education, yet higher education too is divided into “haves” and “have-nots.” I don’t see how, as policy makers, with a stake in education, and able to do something about education funding, we can look into the eyes of students such as Zorayda and Aravind, Ori and Leslie, and say that we cannot afford to meet the needs of our public universities.

I and my colleagues are pleased to accept the challenges presented by the changes ahead, for they augur well for the future of the University and, we believe, for the City and the State. We ask your support in helping us reach our goals.