May 20, 2005 | Speeches and Testimony
Good morning. My thanks to Chair Barron and Chair Weprin for the opportunity to testify today on the Mayorâ€™s Executive Budget and its implications for CUNY. All of us at CUNY are deeply appreciative of the longtime support of the City Council, in particular your response to the Preliminary Budget, which recommended increased funding for the Universityâ€”including an increased, forward-looking capital program. Our thanks to Speaker Miller and the entire council for forcefully articulating and advocating the importance of an improved physical environment at our community colleges and Medgar Evers College. Together with the council, we serve the residents of this great city by providing opportunities for advancement, and we truly value your advocacy and partnership in reaching that goal.
I have testified before about the great progress the University has made through its revitalized focus on academic quality. This academic year, the results of our increased standards and our recruitment of top-notch faculty are apparent. Most recently, the Princeton Review named two CUNY colleges, Brooklyn College and Queens College, to its list of the top 10 best values in higher education. CUNY students have also demonstrated the effectiveness of a CUNY education: two CUNY students were selected as 2005 Rhodes Scholars, one was named a Truman Scholar, and another was named a Goldwater Scholar. And the Hunter College High School student who won the national Intel Science Talent Search contest has chosen to attend the CUNY Honors College at City College.
These achievements reflect CUNY studentsâ€™ better preparation and overall improvement in performanceâ€”including increased SAT scores, freshman GPAs, retention rates, and graduation rates. Our reforms in our teacher education programs have led to a passing rate of 97 percent on state tests. Our Honors College now enrolls more than 1,000 students, and admission is increasingly competitive. The first honors class will graduate at the end of this month, and they are accepting job offers from the most prestigious professional firms in the city and entrance to the best graduate and professional schools in the country.
Our focus on student preparation and access is evident in several areas. Our community colleges offer remediation to students who need it. Our extensive partnerships with the New York City public schools enable high school students to prepare for college or get college credit while in high school. The main facet of that partnership, the College Now program, serves more than 37,000 students, most of whom are minority students, in over 200 schools. Weâ€™ve seen that those who complete the program are more likely to persist in their pursuit of a degree than other comparable New York City public school graduates. And through our early college high school initiative, 10 early college secondary schools are being created throughout the city with the support of a multi-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. By September of this year, there will be schools in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.
CUNYâ€™s enrollment is at its highest level since 1975. Almost half of all college students in the City of New York are attending CUNY, and our student body continues to reflect the cityâ€™s diversity. In fall 2004, more Black, Hispanic, and Asian freshmen were enrolled in baccalaureate programs than had been enrolled the previous fall.
Our strategic plan, which focuses on better preparing students, also emphasizes the importance of our faculty. Since 1998, we have increased the number of full-time faculty by about 800. Many of these hires have been in areas where we can enhance our national reputation, such as digital media, photonics, biosciences, and the urban environment. Our faculty has grown more diverse, as well. Since 2002, the number of minority faculty has grown by more than 18 percent. To support our faculty, we have launched our first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. The $1.2 billion campaign focuses on providing the facilities, equipment, scholarships, and academic support our faculty and students need to excel.
CUNY continues to respond to the needs of our city and state through educational and community programs. Our School of Professional Studies is providing customized courses of study for professionals, and our Graduate School of Journalism is set to open in the fall of 2006. Just last month, in conjunction with the Daily News, we offered an immigration call-in service in both English and Spanish for any New York City resident with questions about citizenship and naturalization. More than 7,500 callers received free information. The program is part of CUNYâ€™s commitment to New Yorkâ€™s immigrant population, which includes the University-wide Immigration Project, designed to meet the needs of our immigrant students and their families.
All of us at CUNY greatly appreciate the consistent support the council has shown for our six community colleges and Medgar Evers College, which are a critical resource for New York City. More and more New Yorkers are taking advantage of the courses, programs, and training workshops offered at these campuses. Total undergraduate enrollment at CUNYâ€™s community colleges has increased more than 17 percent since 1999 and now stands at over 72,000, the highest in CUNYâ€™s history.
However, the Mayorâ€™s Executive Budget, which provides unprecedented capital support, includes several issues that impact the services our students need. We are requesting a full restoration of all targeted reductions in order to at least maintain current service levels.
The FY 2006 Executive Budget recommends city support for the community colleges of $139.8 million, which is $10.3 million less than the FY 2005 budget. The chart below displays budgetary changes from the current year. Although the Executive Budget funds $7.1 million of mandatory cost increases for leases, energy, fringe benefits, and pensions, these enhancements are offset by $17.4 million in reductions, including the recurrence of a $5.4 million prior year P.E.G reduction.
CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK – FY06 CITY EXECUTIVE BUDGET
Community University-Wide Total
($ in millions; includes pensions) Colleges Programs City Support
FY2005 Current Modified 150.1 63.5 213.6
Mandatory Increases 7.1 0.0 7.1
Programmatic Increases 0.0 0.3 0.3
Sub-Total Increases 7.1 0.3 7.4
Safety Net Financial Aid -4.5 0.0 -4.5
Vallone Scholarships 0.0 -7.0 -7.0
Other Council Initiatives -0.6 -12.3 -12.9
PEG/Lump Sum Reductions -12.3 0.0 -12.3
Sub-Total Decreases -17.4 -19.3 -36.7
Total Changes FY05 to FY06 -10.3 -19.0 -29.3
FY2006 Executive Budget 139.8 44.5 184.3
This reduction in funding would be a significant setback to the momentum we have established at our community colleges, where we have increased the percentage of instruction taught by full-time faculty and improved our student support services. We know that students and working adults value the convenience and personal attention they receive at our community colleges. Without sufficient faculty and student support staff, we will not be able to offer the number of classes, and the smaller class sizes, that students need. Those concerns go to the very heart of the community collegeâ€™s mission: accessibility and individual attention.
I am particularly concerned about the proposed $7 million reduction that eliminates the Peter F. Vallone Scholarship program and the $4.5 million elimination of the Safety Net Financial Aid Program. The Vallone Scholarship program has helped more than 28,000 students since its inception. In 2003-04 alone, almost 8,600 students received academic awards. The Safety Net program, which assists our most financially challenged students in meeting the 2003-04 tuition increase, helped 14,500 students in 2003-04. The elimination of these critical scholarship and financial aid programs would be devastating to students seeking an affordable and valued college degree. We are heartened by, and very grateful for, the councilâ€™s recommendation not only to retain but also to significantly increase funding for these programs. In addition, several key council-funded initiatives were not included in the mayorâ€™s FY 2006 Executive Budget, such as the Dominican Studies Institute, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the Creative Arts Team, and the Immigration Center. Chair Barron, Chair Weprin, and members of the committees, we thank you for your exemplary help with these programs, and we ask for your continued support as the city budget process moves forward.
One of CUNYâ€™s most productive collaborations with the Department of Education, CUNY Prepâ€”the CUNY Preparatory Transitional High Schoolâ€”has been targeted to lose $1.1 million that it currently receives from the Department of Youth and Community Development, through the federal Workforce Development Act. CUNY Prep offers a full-time college preparatory program for out-of-school youth, preparing them to earn an equivalency diploma and go on to college. The school has had great success in assisting these particularly vulnerable students, and a loss of funding would severely impede our ability to reach students who, given the right educational background, can contribute much to this city. Given the important work of the DYCD, we would be grateful for your assistance on this item.
As we have prepared the Universityâ€™s strategic plan, we have taken into account conversations we have had with the councilâ€™s higher education committee and its chair. Like you, we have acknowledged that institutions of higher education must improve their ability to successfully recruit, retain, and graduate young men from minority groups, especially African American and Caribbean American men. To address the challenges facing these men and to improve the opportunities available to them, we incorporated into the Universityâ€™s strategic plan an initiative that emanated from the work of President Edison Jackson at Medgar Evers College. The intention of the Initiative on the Black Male in Education is to promote solutions that lead to demonstrable advances in the lives and experiences of young black men. We view these kinds of initiatives as complementary to the Universityâ€™s overall outreach effort, which includes, for example, our faculty and student exchange agreement with the Dominican Republic. Funding for the Initiative on the Black Male has been included in the budget as a $2.6 million enhancement, and we are hopeful for your support to address this critical need.
The capital funding recommended by the council and proposed by the mayorâ€™s Executive Budget gives CUNY an unprecedented opportunity to build on the stateâ€™s capital supportâ€”and we are deeply grateful for that opportunity. The budget enables us to look toward building a physical infrastructure that will enhance the educational infrastructure now in place at CUNY.
The capital plan allows CUNY to improve and expand facilities on all of the community colleges and Medgar Evers College. It paves the way to new buildingsâ€”including an instructional building at Bronx Community College, an academic building at Medgar Evers College, and the replacement of Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College. It also allows for much-needed renovations of buildings at LaGuardia Community College and Hostos Community College, upgrades at Queensborough Community College, and repairs at Kingsborough Community College. All of these physical improvements are aimed at improving the services and programs offered to students, including betterâ€”and saferâ€”classroom and lab spaces.
The councilâ€™s recommendation of a multi-year capital plan that addresses the growing needs at CUNYâ€™s community colleges, and, in particular, Chair Barronâ€™s work in chairing the hearing on our capital priorities, is most appreciated. We understand that building the Universityâ€™s research capacities, enhancing our studentsâ€™ preparedness and proficiency, and strengthening our academic programs is a collaborative effort, and we are very grateful for your partnership and your long-term vision for CUNY. We look forward to continuing to work with you to build the best possible future for the Universityâ€™s thousands of hard-working students.