Testimony, State Executive Budget

January 30, 2006 | Speeches and Testimony

Good morning, Chairman Farrell and Chairman Johnson, members of the Ways and Means 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 FY 2007 State Executive Budget. We are grateful to Governor Pataki for his early release of the budget and his recognition of the substantial progress the University has made in the last several years. We look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure continued progress.

With your help, CUNY has taken great strides in meeting our academic goals. This past fall, the University recorded its highest student enrollments in 30 years. We now serve over 220,000 degree-credit students and more than 250,000 adult and continuing education students–the highest number in CUNY’s history. We have proved that raising academic standards results in more students, better prepared, and greater shares of students from select public high schools. Our award-winning students are competing successfully in state, national, and international arenas. Our performance management system ensures accountability at the highest levels throughout the University. Our Graduate School of Journalism will open in Fall 2006, led by former Business Week Editor-in-Chief Stephen Shepard. Our alumni are returning home, as demonstrated most recently by Intel co-founder Andrew Grove’s $26 million gift to his alma mater, City College. Our $1.2 billion Campaign for the CUNY Colleges, launched in November 2004, has already recorded more than $650 million in gifts.

These accomplishments have required the efforts of the entire University, including CUNY’s Board of Trustees, the college presidents and other administrators, and, of course, our students. I must emphasize, however, that none of this would be possible without CUNY’s accomplished faculty. Without their dedication and focus, their determination to help every student succeed and to contribute the very best scholarship and service to the University and the community, CUNY would not be where it is today. They deserve our collective support and recognition as we continue to move the University forward.

The goals enumerated in the state-approved 2004-2008 Master Plan remain priorities throughout CUNY, including having 70 percent of instruction provided by full-time professors; the enhancement of our research environment, with facilities, equipment, and support for cutting-edge scholarship; and the best academic opportunities to challenge every student.

We are grateful to see that the State Executive Budget recognizes the need to support these priorities through a recommended funding increase of $61.8 million for the CUNY senior colleges. This amount includes $42.9 million for mandatory cost increases, $13.9 million in additional operating assistance, and $5 million in Empire Innovation Program funding. At the same time, the Executive Budget indicates an increase in revenue from tuition charges of $45.7 million, the equivalent of a $300 tuition increase for full-time resident undergraduate students.

As you know, this year CUNY recommended a fresh approach to financing investment in the University, a long-term plan we are calling a compact. Under the compact, funding would be shared by the State and the City, the University (through internal efficiencies), philanthropic sources, and students, through managed enrollment growth and modest, predictable tuition increases. Under the plan, the State and the City would commit to fully funding the University’s mandatory costs and a portion of the programmatic priorities in the Master Plan. The revenue from the increased tuition would go exclusively toward funding the CUNY investment initiatives, with recommendations from CUNY students and faculty, as would the philanthropic dollars and resources from internal efficiencies.

The CUNY compact was unanimously adopted this past November by the Board of Trustees, praised by national education leaders, and lauded by Governor Pataki as “an innovative and fiscally responsible approach to financing operations by delineating shared responsibility among partners and creating opportunities to leverage funds.”

The State Executive Budget provides partial funding to cover the senior college operating costs and Master Plan initiatives. A gap of $18.3 million remains. In addition, the proposed tuition revenue increase is $17.4 million more than CUNY’s requested amount of $28.3 million and is used in the Executive recommendation to cover mandatory costs. A central tenet of the CUNY compact is that tuition increases would cover only programmatic needs. Taken together, the $18.3 million and the $17.4 million represent an additional $35.7 million in state aid, above the Executive Budget recommendations, that the University is seeking for the senior colleges.

At CUNY’s community colleges, the Executive Budget calls for an increase of $100 per full-time equivalent student. We appreciate the recognition of the pressing need for enhanced funding at these colleges, which serve a remarkable number and diversity of students. However, the very urgency of that need requires that we seek an increase of $250 per full-time equivalent student.

Increased state support for all of the CUNY colleges is critical to the University. Only with the state’s investment in public higher education at CUNY can we trigger investments from other sources; only if the state makes public higher education a public priority can we expect other partners to do the same. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and business partners have demonstrated renewed and generous support of the University, but we cannot expect them to shoulder a disproportionate share of funding this public institution.

It is with these partnerships in mind that I must address the Executive Budget proposals regarding the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The budget recommends a reduction in financial assistance: first, by requiring institutions to pre-finance TAP awards for first-time TAP applicants admitted to postsecondary programs without a high school diploma, including those with GEDs; and second, by defining full-time study as 15 credits and allowing students who enroll in fewer than 15 credits to receive just 80 percent of their TAP award.

When I first proposed CUNY’s compact, I emphasized that this partnership would work only if our most needy students were held out of harm’s way–that is, if their financial assistance protected them from even modest tuition increases. The recommended changes to TAP would have a problematic effect on the 40,000 TAP-eligible CUNY undergraduates who currently enroll in fewer than 15 credits. About 59 percent of our TAP-eligible undergraduates would not receive full TAP awards.

The proposed policy penalizes students who must work, who are parents, who support families, who are juggling complex schedules, or who cannot find the classes they need because there are not sufficient teachers. The recommendations defy the very purpose of financial aid by targeting those who are most in need of help, those who are already affected by federal financial aid policies that increasingly depend on loans, rather than grants.

In addition, the recommendation penalizes institutions that reach out to students with GEDs. Conflating these students–many of whom pursued the GED when serious circumstances interfered with their high school education–with students who have simply not completed high school requirements discourages students who take advantage of an alternate means of completing their high school education.

These financial aid recommendations are partly intended to increase four-year graduation rates at CUNY and SUNY, something the budget’s proposed “Partnership to Accelerate Completion Time” directly addresses. Yet according to information from the U.S. Department of Education, a four-year bachelor’s degree is no longer the norm; students now average five to six years to earn a degree. For many students, the reality of job and family circumstances necessitates a more flexible approach. The University has long recognized the complex balance required in encouraging completion of the degree while acknowledging students’ very real needs. Dr. Selma Botman, CUNY’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, has been leading a University-wide effort to formulate outcomes-based approaches to success through timely graduation, in part by addressing roadblocks to student success, from registration procedures to scheduling difficulties to available counseling. These efforts would only be impeded by policies that financially penalize needy students and discourage their often heroic work to attain advanced study.

We were pleased to see support in the Executive Budget for programs to encourage and prepare students for postsecondary work, including a new summer program in math and science for middle school students. As you know, CUNY has been at the forefront of college preparation, with its very successful College Now program, soon to be supplemented with its Science Now program. A unified and consistent effort by our K-12 institutions and our colleges to increase proficiency is essential to providing true opportunities to students. Aid to schools can only come to fruition if public school students are able to move on to postsecondary education.

CUNY has a deep and longstanding commitment to students with disabilities, who comprise the fastest-growing population at the University. More than 20 percent of New York State’s entire population of students with disabilities is enrolled at CUNY. However, despite their growing numbers, and the significant increase in the cost of providing resources for these students, the University has not received an increase in base funding for disability services since 1993-94. In order to meet this critical need, and to further ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities are prepared for the transition to college, we request an increase of $1.3 million for disabilities services.

The University is appreciative of the efforts by the Governor and the Legislature to secure multi-year funding for CUNY’s capital needs. That plan is instrumental to our pursuit of CUNY’s “Decade of Science.” Our initiatives to ensure a healthy pipeline to the science, math, technology, and engineering fields, to advance science at the highest levels of research, and to train students to teach and study in these fields depend on the existence of appropriate facilities.

We are grateful for the capital appropriation increases recommended in the Executive Budget, but, as you all know, we face major challenges to our construction and renovation projects. The New Science Facility for CCNY will be constructed as a single-phase project, and we seek an additional $80 million, beyond the $15 million provided in the Executive Budget. The stabilization of the Marshak Building, also at CCNY, requires an additional $13.8 million.

At other senior colleges, plans for much-needed science facilities are under way but were not fully funded in the five-year plan. To meet the remaining planning needs and continue work on projects at Brooklyn, Hunter, Lehman, and Queens colleges, as well as the CUNY-wide Advanced Science Research Facility, we seek $51 million.

Projects at the senior colleges in technology, health and safety, and facilities renovation require an additional $60 million. In addition, planning for the 2M Building at the College of Staten Island and a new student center at York College require funding of $11 million.

For our community colleges and Medgar Evers College, we are seeking matching funds of $15.6 million for health and safety funding received in the 2006 Borough President-City Council appropriations. Matching funds would enable the University to move forward on important projects such as roof repair, infrastructure, and fire alarm systems. Additionally, construction funds in the amount of $26 million are required for ongoing projects at Borough of Manhattan, Hostos, LaGuardia, Kingsborough, and Queensborough community colleges.

Most important, many projects, already designed and ready to begin construction, were conceived before recent economic changes led to unprecedented escalating costs. We are seeking $49 million in completion funding for several major projects, such as the West Quad Building at Brooklyn College and the expansion project at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in order to address immediate and critical needs at the campuses.

Crucial to the campuses’ facility improvement efforts is new funding for CUNY-wide matching grants, which would allow the colleges to take advantage of the generosity of private donors. For example, at Baruch College, $10 million is needed for the renovation of the Lawrence and Eris Field Building; at Brooklyn College, $10 million is sought for the Tow Center for the Performing Arts; and the Queens College Center for the Arts seeks a $5 million match. The University is requesting a total of $33 million for matching grants.

Our new Graduate School of Journalism, which will welcome its first class in the fall of this year, requires $10 million for urgently needed renovation to its home, the Times Square facility formerly occupied by the New York Herald Tribune. We are eager to work closely with the Legislature in further developing plans for a Louis Armstrong Visitor Center affiliated with Queens College.

Providing our students and faculty with well-equipped facilities, as well as the programs and academic support they need, is fundamental to CUNY’s very mission. Chairman Johnson and Chairman Farrell, and members of the Senate and Assembly, we greatly appreciate all you have done to assist us in this regard, and we look forward to continuing to build on that productive partnership. Thank you.