December 1, 2006 | CUNY Matters Columns
This summer, CUNY Matters profiled families with multiple CUNY graduates. I was struck by the story of Norma Smiley, an immigrant from Jamaica who graduated from Medgar Evers College’s licensed practical nurse program in June. Three sons are also CUNY graduates. “City University got me through all this,” she said. “They really pushed me and provided help and support. They do everything to keep you focused.”
Norma Smiley’s story is a reminder that a great university is a vehicle for aspiration, facilitating learning and discovery and changing students’ futures. It reinforced my belief that to maintain that critical role, CUNY must invest in its own future.
That’s why we introduced the CUNY Compact last year, a new approach to funding the University. The goal of the Compact is to finance the academic goals and priorities of the University by leveraging resources from the University’s key stakeholders: New York State and New York City, which would fund mandatory costs, plus 20 percent of our investment program; the University itself, contributing through improved productivity and efficiencies; friends, alumni, and donors, supporting an increased emphasis on philanthropy; and our students, assisting through enrollment growth and modest, predictable tuition increases.
This shared partnership enables us to address the long-term goals developed with our campuses every four years for the state-mandated Master Plan–such as adding full-time faculty, enhancing research, and expanding library resources. The Compact also aims to shift the burden of meeting the University’s operating costs from students to government. Rather than relying on large, unexpected tuition increases during economic downturns, the Compact proposes smaller, periodic tuition increases that do not exceed the rate of inflation. In addition, the maintenance of full student financial aid is required for the success of the plan, so that no student is denied the ability to continue his or her education.
Last year, we proposed the CUNY Compact to the University’s constituencies, including lawmakers, and we have begun to see the results of this fresh approach to financing. Increased funding from both the state and the city for the 2007 fiscal year enabled us to cover all mandatory cost increases–for example, the costs associated with collective bargaining–and to begin an investment program.
These investments include additional money for full-time faculty, libraries, advising and counseling, services for students with disabilities, and facility upgrades.
As we look toward our 2008 budget and the second year of the Compact, our goal is to build on these investments and address important University-wide initiatives. Our campuses have indicated the need for strengthened undergraduate and graduate programs, expanded research opportunities, better academic and student support, and improved information management systems and facilities. Several new efforts are directed toward these needs, including:
- The Campaign for Student Success: Led by the Office of Academic Affairs, the goal of the campaign is to improve student achievement and to raise graduation rates through innovative curricular and instructional strategies.
- The Decade of Science: The University’s focus on increasing participation and proficiency in science, engineering, math, and technology includes building and modernizing science facilities, investing in faculty and graduate students, and educating students to teach math and science in high-need schools.
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): The CUNY ERP project will provide a new, University-wide suite of policies, processes, and information systems in order to streamline current practices and help us become more efficient.
Through enhanced support from all of the University’s partners–including increased state and city aid, philanthropy, and productivity, and a modest tuition increase, with revenues used solely for programmatic improvements–we will be able to build on last year’s investments. We will also further our goal of shifting the burden of meeting our operating costs from students to government.
In conjunction with the Compact, the 2008 capital budget request comprises new buildings, renovations, and upgrades that will allow us to meet our long-term academic initiatives. These include the CUNY-wide Advanced Science Research Center, science facilities at City, Lehman, and Queens colleges, and the replacement of Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Our students and faculty deserve facilities, programs, and services that match their aspirations and abilities. Through the CUNY Compact, we can truly invest in their futures.