April 1, 2005 | CUNY Matters Columns
Early in February, I testified before the New York State Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees about The City University of New York and the proposed fiscal year 2006 State Executive Budget. Because our partnership with the state is critical to our ability to offer students the quality programs and services they deserve, I’d like to explain some of the key proposals in the Executive Budget and their impact on CUNY.
With respect to CUNY’s senior colleges, the State Executive Budget recommends an increase in overall funding of $88.4 million, or 7.1 percent, over the current year. The Executive Budget maintains the base aid rate used to fund community colleges but increases overall base aid by $3.2 million to allow for enrollment growth.
While the $88.4 million recommended for the senior colleges is indeed welcome, the Executive Budget nonetheless presents some significant challenges.
Chief among them is that revenue from tuition charges is set to rise by $37.3 million. This equates to an increase in tuition revenue of 6.3 percent, from $4,000 to $4,250, for full-time undergraduate residents at a senior college. Such an increase would have a marked impact on our students. Six of 10 CUNY students come from households earning $30,000 or less. Seven of 10 work full or part time. All experienced a tuition increase of $800 annually in 2003. We must protect, as a first priority, qualified students who cannot afford to attend college.
The Executive Budget also proposes reductions for the senior colleges, including the elimination of the financial aid component of the SEEK program, and the elimination of an FY 2005 unfunded appropriation.
In sum, the Executive Budget proposal presents CUNY with a $70.5 million operating budget challenge:
- Raising $37.3 million through increases in tuition, which equates to an increase of $250 in tuition for each full-time resident undergraduate student;
- Securing funding of $26.3 million for unfunded mandatory costs; and
- Financing the $6.9 million needed for the restoration of the SEEK financial aid program.
Regarding financial aid, the Executive Budget retains current levels of funding for TAP, the Tuition Assistance Program. However, it calls for the awards to be provided in two components for full-time freshmen: a “base” award, which is one-half of the current award, and a “performance” award, the remaining one-half, which would be paid to students when they attain their degree.
The proposal effectively changes a tuition program into a loan program. CUNY students need their financial aid while they study for their degrees. In Fall 2003, more than 61,000 of CUNY’s undergraduate, degree-seeking students received TAP funding. The program is a critical safety net that allows these students to attend the University.
On the capital budget side, the State Executive Budget recommends an increase of $89 million to the five-year capital plan enacted last year, for a total capital budget of $1.42 billion for fiscal years 2004-2009.
Of that $89 million increase, $69 million is for projects at the senior colleges. The remaining $20 million is for the replacement of Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College, the building irreparably damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
There are also challenges in our capital budget, areas that need additional funding. We have requested that projects for the senior colleges that were added last year by the legislature be reinstated, and that additional projects in the University’s five-year plan be funded. A total of $151 million is needed, which includes facilities infrastructure, network infrastructure, and construction projects.
The capital budget needs of the community colleges and Medgar Evers College have a particular urgency. Since 1991, CUNY has received only $24 million to implement infrastructure-type projects whose funding needs now total over $130 million. 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 and Medgar Evers College, the University has requested an additional $186.2 million. This amount includes $108 million that was added by the legislature last year but subsequently vetoed, as well as additional funding for repair, construction, and acquisition work at several community colleges.
Providing our students and faculty with appropriate facilities, programs, and academic support is critical to CUNY’s ability to enhance research capabilities and to encourage and challenge students with rigorous curricula. A strong partnership with the state is the only way to ensure that these needs can be met, and we will continue to work with New York’s legislators to encourage their support for the University’s priorities.
Note: For the full transcript of Chancellor Goldstein’s testimony, visit www.cuny.edu.