March 18, 2005 | Speeches and Testimony
Good morning, Chair Barron and Chair Weprin, members of the Higher Education and Finance committees, staff, and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today about The City University of New York and the mayorâ€™s Preliminary Budget. I want to especially acknowledge your leadership in helping the University fulfill its vital educational mission.
This year has been one of great progress at CUNY. This has been demonstrated most recently by another gain in the passing rate of students in teacher education programs that require state tests. The rate is now 97 percent, the highest since testing began. Improving our teacher education programs is just one of the goals set out in our 2004-2008 master plan. That plan positions CUNY centrally among national higher education institutions and reconfirms our commitment to New Yorkers from all backgrounds and boroughs.
Iâ€™d like to share with you few recent indications of our progress.
Â· CUNYâ€™s enrollment is at its highest level since 1975. Numbers of minority freshmen are increasing. At our top-tier colleges, average SAT scores of admitted and enrolled students have increased significantly, first-term GPAs for freshmen have increased, retention rates have improved, and graduation rates have increased. In fact, the graduation rate for all minority students at CUNY improved at more than twice the rate for white students between 2001 and 2003. Overall, our six-year baccalaureate graduation rates jumped 10.3 percentage points in the last five years.
Â· This spring, CUNYâ€™s Honors College will graduate its first class. This is a significant milestone for the collegeâ€”and for the city, which will benefit from these accomplished graduates. Many of them are currently fielding offers of acceptance from the best professional and graduate schools in the country. Many others have already accepted offers of employment from Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Merrill Lynch. Today, more than 1,000 students are enrolled in the Honors College. Highly qualified applicants continue to exceed the number of available spaces by a factor of seven to one, and the mean SAT score of those admitted exceeds 1340. Our studentsâ€™ success is also demonstrated by the selection of two CUNY students as Rhodes Scholars. Our thanks again to the City Council for recognizing Eugene Shenderov and Lev Sviridov at a ceremony in December.
Â· CUNY is the largest partner with New York Cityâ€™s public schools, and our collaborations are helping thousands of students complete high school and prepare for college. Enrollment in our College Now program, our major partnership with the New York City Department of Education, jumped 70 percent from 2001 to 2004, with current enrollments of over 37,000. Last year, the Math Science Partnership, another CUNY/Department of Education collaboration, was awarded $12.5 million over five years to improve K-12 math and science education. In addition, as I mentioned, our improved teacher education programs have led to a passing rate of 97 percent on state tests. We have added, to date, almost 70 new faculty to our Teacher Education programs and our new Ph.D. program in urban education. We have also begun planning for the CUNY Teachersâ€™ Academy, which will prepare accomplished urban teachers to enter the cityâ€™s public schools, especially in the areas of greatest shortage, including math, science, special education, bilingual education, and world languages.
Â· CUNY remains committed to hiring more full-time faculty, since it is our talented faculty who establish the intellectual strength of the University. In the last two years alone, we have added more than 600 new full-time faculty, and now have close to 6,300. Three hundred of those new faculty were made possible by the Community College Investment Program.
Â· The effects of hiring the best faculty and encouraging a flagship environment can be seen in CUNYâ€™s increased research activity. From 2000 to 2004, total grant and contract revenue at CUNY increased 63 percent. In 2004, grants to CUNY faculty and staff were in excess of $300 million.
Â· In Fall 2006, we plan to begin classes at the first Graduate School of Journalism at a public university in New York. The schoolâ€™s new dean, former Business Week editor-in-chief and City College graduate Stephen Shepard, will be working closely with a top-notch advisory board on the curriculum and program. And we have instituted a new School of Professional Studies, a nimble way to collaborate with employers on customized courses of study outside our formal academic programs.
Â· From April 18 to 22, CUNY, along with the Daily News, will again offer a special call-in program for immigrant New Yorkers who need citizenship advice. This is the third time that we have successfully helped tens of thousands of New Yorkers looking to more fully engage in the life of the city.
Â· In November, we officially launched the â€œCampaign for the CUNY Colleges,â€ CUNYâ€™s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. The campaign is aimed at raising $1.2 billion in private funds in the next few years. We also hope to leverage capital expenditures through naming opportunities and other support from the private sector. In the last four years alone, during the campaignâ€™s quiet phase, we have received more than a half a billion dollars. The campaignâ€™s focus is on essential educational needs: scholarships, equipment, research, and facilities, which our first-rate faculty and students need and deserve.
Our campaign is also an indication that CUNY is taking its place among the best public universities in the country. However, it can only do so with appropriate public support.
Let me briefly update you on the status of our state budget condition. The governorâ€™s Executive Budget proposal for fiscal year 2005-2006, which was issued in January, leaves the University with a state budget challenge of $70.5 million. The biggest component of this challenge is a tuition revenue increase. The Executive Budget provides for the equivalent of a $250 tuition increase for full-time resident undergraduate senior college students in order to meet an overall rise in tuition revenue of $37.3 million. A tuition increase of 6.3 percentâ€”from $4,000 to $4,250 annuallyâ€”will make a marked difference for our students, and would equate to an overall tuition increase of over $1,000â€”almost 32 percentâ€”in just 24 months.
The State Executive Budget proposal also leaves the University with a $26.3 million operating budget shortfall at our senior colleges. The gap includes mandated needs such as new leases and buildings, environmental health and safety needs, new faculty commitments, and energy costs. In addition, the proposal eliminates the $6.9 million financial aid component of the SEEK program, which serves the poorest students at CUNY.
I have provided testimony to state legislators outlining the severe effect that the governorâ€™s Executive Budget would have on the University, and my staff and I continue to discuss these critical issues with representatives of the legislature and the governorâ€™s office. As you know, the Assembly and Senate are reviewing their â€œone-houseâ€ responses as a prelude to further negotiations. We are hopeful that the state will adopt a budget that will not be harmful to students and will allow CUNY to at least maintain its current funding levels.
Today, Iâ€™d like to speak to you more specifically about CUNYâ€™s six community colleges, which are a critical resource for New York City. Students, employers, businesses, and community groups rely on the colleges to provide the highest quality academic and training programs, and to ensure convenience and affordability. We expect the colleges to be there when and where we want them, with programs and services we need. It is clear that this need is growing. Total undergraduate enrollment at CUNYâ€™s community colleges has increased more than 17 percent since 1999. It now stands at over 72,000, the highest in CUNYâ€™s history.
Yet while more and more students sign up for courses, fill classrooms, and request financial aid, support from the state and city declines.
On the city side, the mayorâ€™s Preliminary Budget calls for $151.5 million in overall support for CUNY in FY2006, a decrease of $34.7 million from overall support in the FY2005 budget. This reduction is offset by a $3 million increase in city support for pensions, which is funded outside of CUNYâ€™s budget. For the community colleges, the mayorâ€™s Preliminary Budget funds $133.8 million in FY2006, which is a reduction of $12.6 million from current-year budget levels.
This presents a significant challenge to our community colleges for FY2006.
Of particular concern is the recurrence of a $5.4 million reduction through the Program to Eliminate the Gap. This PEG reduction was eliminated by the council and the mayor on a one-time basis in FY2005, and we are requesting a permanent restoration to our budget. Such a reduction cuts at the very heart of our community collegesâ€™ mission, affecting our ability to offer classes when students need them, to increase the percentage of instruction taught by full-time faculty, and to make sure students have the tutoring and library support they need. We have made significant gains in these areas, including the hiring of 300 additional full-time faculty, as I mentioned earlier, and a loss of funding would only lead to setbacks.
We are also deeply worried about the proposed reductions of $7 million for the Peter F. Vallone City Council Scholarships and $4.5 million for the New York City Council Safety Net Program, which would eliminate both programs.
In 2003-04, almost 8,600 CUNY students, including our Honors College enrollees, received Vallone Scholarships. These scholarshipsâ€”given to freshmen who graduated from New York City high schools, maintain a B average, and complete at least 12 College Preparatory Initiative creditsâ€”encourage high-achieving students to stay in New York City to continue their education. In 2003-04, more than 14,500 of our most needy community college students received funding from the Safety Net Program, helping them defray recent tuition increases.
When you combine these losses with the stateâ€™s proposals to increase revenue from tuition, eliminate SEEK financial aid, and reorganize TAP funding, which was relied on by more than 80,000 CUNY students last year, you create an enormous burden on the most vulnerable students. We must also factor in recent changes to the eligibility formula for federal Pell Grant funding. Those changes will cause about 2,200 CUNY students to lose their entire Pell Grant, and another 44,000 to lose part of their Pell Grant. The change will cost our students a total of $8.4 million in Pell Grant funding for the 2005-06 year. Our first priority must be to protect qualified students who cannot afford to attend college. One of CUNYâ€™s two Rhodes Scholars, Lev Sviridov, qualified for full TAP funding during eight semesters at City College. Had that funding not been available when he needed it, he would not be heading to Oxford University in October.
I must also point out, more generally, that the deep cuts that have been proposed discourage true progress. Our energy is spent in a salvage effort, trying simply to retain minimal levels of funding. How much more effective would it be to focus on investing in CUNY, in building on the gains we have made in the last several years and strengthening our academic programs. This is the time to capitalize on the substantial progress we have made in order to ensure that a rigorous, progressive CUNY education will be available to every student.
I should note that we are pleased to see an increase of $349,000 for the Hunter College Campus Schools. Their performance continues to excel, indicated most recently by Hunter College High School senior David Bauerâ€™s selection as the winner of the national Intel Science Talent Search. We are delighted that David plans to attend the CUNY Honors College next year.
The crucial capital budget needs of the community colleges deserve particular emphasis. We are hopeful that the council and speaker will call for the mayor to include a multi-year capital plan for the community colleges: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, and Queensborough Community College.
Since 1991, CUNY has received only a fraction of the funding needed to implement health and safety and infrastructure-type projects. These include repairing roofs and parapets, upgrading fire alarm systems, providing for compliance with fire exit requirements, removing asbestos and hazardous materials, and complying with Local Law 11. The conditions at some facilities have deteriorated to such a point that, as responsible public servants, we must address them or risk potential injury to faculty, students, and staff.
To fund the infrastructure projects and to provide for academic programs and enrollment growth at our community colleges, the University requests an additional $201 million. This amount includes $107 million that was added by the legislature last year but subsequently vetoed, and includes funding for:
Â· An instructional building and library at Bronx Community College;
Â· The renovation of 500 Grand Concourse for Hostos Community College;
Â· The continued renovation of Center III at LaGuardia Community College; and
Â· The Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College.
The additional $94 million would be used to:
Â· Replace roofs at Kingsborough Community College;
Â· Design and construct an instructional building at Queensborough Community College; and
Â· Augment funding for acquisition and remediation of the Sanitation Department garage site being purchased for the expansion of Medgar Evers College.
We are very grateful for the state and city commitment to replacing Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College, the building irreparably damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attack. Governor Pataki has called for $20 million for Fiterman Hall, which is matched by Mayor Bloomberg in the cityâ€™s financial plan.
The University is actively engaged in the process to rebuild Fiterman Hall. We have $167 million of the estimated $187 million needed to replace the building, and we are working with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to obtain the remaining funding. The renowned architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners has been selected to provide professional services for clean-up, demolition, and design of a new facility on the same site. The first step, to commence this April, will be to perform a thorough environmental investigation and prepare a plan to ensure proper cleanup of the contaminated site. Once we obtain all required approvals for cleanup and construction activity, demolition of the existing building is anticipated to begin in December 2005.
There is approximately $100 million in the cityâ€™s capital plan for CUNY, both mayoral funds (approximately 25 percent) and funds from the City Council and the Borough Presidents (approximately 75 percent). However, the majority of these funds are already allocated to active projects being implemented by the University. Approximately $27 million of the City Council and Borough Presidents funds are allocated to senior college projects, and are therefore not eligible for state matching funds.
There are projects that are eligible for, and for which we expect to receive, state matching fundsâ€”notably for the rebuilding of Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College. But most of the funds allocated to the community colleges and Medgar Evers College are earmarked for equipment to upgrade classrooms and laboratories. These funds cannot be re-designated for health and safety and code compliance projects, the very projects most urgently in need of additional funding.
Providing our students and faculty with appropriate facilities, as well as the academic and financial support they need, is critical to CUNYâ€™s ability to enhance research capabilities and to encourage and challenge students with rigorous curricula. Chair Barron and Chair Weprin, and members of the council, we greatly appreciate all you have done to assist us in this regard. We count on your help in continuing to support our critical needs.