May 21, 2007 | News from the Chancellor, Speeches and Testimony
Good afternoon, Chairperson Weprin and Chairperson Barron, members of the Finance and Higher Education committees, staff, and guests. Thank you for this opportunity to testify about The City University of New York and the FY 2008 Executive Budget. I want to reiterate at the outset what I said when I last appeared here in March: All of us at CUNY appreciate your strong and enduring advocacy of CUNY and public higher education; we look forward to working with the Council to ensure the continued progress that you and the rest of the city have come to expect from us.
As you know, The City University of New York is the country’s largest urban public university. Enrollment at CUNY’s 23 colleges and professional schools now stands at its highest level in over 31 years, serving more than 226,000 degree-credit students and 230,000 adult, continuing education, and professional education students.
Allow me to share with you a few examples of CUNY’s progress in meeting New Yorkers’ educational needs:
- At the end of February, our Board of Trustees unanimously approved a program leading to the doctoral degree in public health. This moves us forward on our plans to launch New York City’s first public graduate school of public health, to be located at Hunter College. The new school will allow us to synthesize our University-wide endeavors in public health training–including those that originate at our community colleges, where so much workforce development is rooted–and research. It will offer a platform from which those activities will be significantly expanded. It will enable CUNY to better serve New York City in the critical areas of urban public health and related health sciences, providing significantly greater variety, extent, and quality of services.
- The new Graduate School of Public Health is one part of our multifaceted Decade of Science initiative (2005-2015), the overarching goal of which is to heighten scientific literacy and achievement. We must, for example, equip our students and faculty with state-of-the-art research facilities. We also recognize the urgency of promoting science awareness among the general public, and will make that work the focus of our next CUNY Month in November 2007. We recognize this country’s crisis in science literacy, and we are working to rectify it.
- We continue to reach out to members of traditionally underrepresented groups. New programs such as the Teacher Academy and the Black Male Initiative are focusing particular attention on the educational needs of underserved populations in our city, both within our public middle and high schools and at the postsecondary level.
- The new Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) will provide renewed attention not only to opening the doors of educational opportunity to students at our community colleges, but by giving these students the tools and support to ensure their timely degree completion.
Permit me, for a moment, to remind this audience of the importance of our six community colleges for the people who live and work in our city. Nearly all of our community college students are New York City residents. They are taxpayers and contributors to the fabric of our city’s life.
Our community colleges serve an array of constituencies. Beyond those enrolled in degree and certification programs, New Yorkers turn to our community colleges for an array of services: for the high schools on their campuses; for access to the free and low-cost cultural events they host; for continuing education. And the colleges are serving more New Yorkers all the time. For Fall 2006 nearly 74,000 students were enrolled in degree credit programs at our community colleges, and more than 116,000 were enrolled as certificate and continuing education students. There are over 18,500 students from the city’s public high schools participating in College Now through the community colleges. As the number of students continues to increase, the community colleges are managing the programs and services needed to support and educate New Yorkers.
Let me take a moment to say a few words about each of our six community colleges:
- Borough of Manhattan Community College: BMCC is the only CUNY community college in Manhattan. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of International Education, among colleges nationwide BMCC ranks first in awarding associate degrees to African-Americans; second in awarding associate degrees to minority students; and fifth in awarding associate degrees to Hispanic-Americans.
- Bronx Community College: Established 50 years ago, BCC now offers more than 30 degrees and certificates. It serves ever-increasing numbers of students; over the past five years alone enrollment has increased nearly 20 percent.
- Hostos Community College: Based in the South Bronx, Hostos takes pride in its historical role in educating students from diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, especially Hispanic- and African-Americans. To that end it possesses special strengths in transitional language instruction for all English-as-a-Second-Language learners along with Spanish/English bilingual education offerings.
- Kingsborough Community College: The only community college in Brooklyn, Kingsborough serves about 30,000 degree and non-degree students each year, and is the site for much additional community programming. Last year, more than 200,000 people attended special events at Kingsborough.
- LaGuardia Community College: In addition to everything else it does so well and for its home borough of Queens–it consistently receives national accolades–LaGuardia is where we house and preserve the Archives of New York Mayors LaGuardia, Wagner, Beame, and Koch–and of the New York City Council.
- Queensborough Community College: To date, more than 46,000 students have graduated from QCC. More than 12,000 students are currently enrolled in one of QCC’s degree or certificate programs, and another 10,000–of all ages and populations–participate in its continuing education programs.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t note, with appreciation, the Executive Budget’s call for increases in pensions, energy, and collective bargaining, all of them mandatory needs. But these gains are offset by the Executive Budget’s recommended reductions.
We are working productively with the Mayor’s Office to resolve this budgetary dilemma, and we hope for the Council’s support in that process. The Executive Budget eliminates $21 million for community college operations for FY 2008; this directly carves out essential support for the very core of our community college operations. CUNY also faces reductions in City support for the current fiscal year, including $2.7 million from our community college operating budgets. As you all know, a cut in the final quarter of the year has a multiplicative effect on our budget.
Specifically, the proposed reductions would require us to consider consequences that include:
- Reduced number of faculty positions;
- Reduced available course options;
- Increased class sizes;
- Curtailed library hours;
- Reduced counseling and tutoring services;
- Compromised physical plant maintenance; and
- Diminished tuition revenues.
We must emphasize that increased city support for CUNY’s community colleges through the CUNY Compact remains critical to the University. Only with the city’s continued investment in CUNY can we continue to trigger investments from other sources; only if the city sustains public higher education as 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.
Beyond our operating requirements, we remain deeply concerned about the proposed reduction of $11.2 million for the Peter F. Vallone City Council Scholarships, and $4.5 million for the Safety Net Program. The proposed budget recommendations would effectively eliminate both programs at the very moment when we have increasing numbers of students depending on precisely this financial assistance.
I must also note that the Executive Budget eliminates funding for important initiatives across the University, including $1.5 million for the Black Male Initiative, which has made impressive strides thanks in significant part to last year’s restored funding; $600,000 for the CUNY Citizenship and Immigration Project, which continues to serve not only our own faculty and students but communities throughout the city as well; and many others. These programs serve thousands of students, faculty, and residents of New York City. They provide much-needed opportunities, often for those from underserved populations, to gain access to advanced study and career development. We ask, quite simply, that their funding be restored.
But I am not here merely to request restorations. We seek investment in CUNY’s sustained progress. Therefore, we also request a $6.4 million enhancement, largely framed from a series of hearings by the Council’s Higher Education Committee. The largest portion will be used to fund full-time faculty and student services improvements at the community colleges. It will offer support for child care, health services, women’s centers, and outreach to uninsured students. We know that it is often these vital programs that enable students to complete their studies in a timely way. Additional funds will strengthen and expand two programs whose success I’ve already mentioned: the Black Male Initiative and the Immigration Project.
On the capital side, the University remains grateful for last year’s first multi-year appropriation from the City. We remember your unflinching support.
As you know, we received multi-year appropriations from the State in 1998 and 2003 for the community colleges and Medgar Evers College. These commitments to five-year capital plans allow the University to plan and implement building projects with certainty, something that is not possible when funding assurances are limited to the existing budget year. Additionally, we greatly appreciate the support CUNY receives each year through appropriations directly from the City Council and Borough Presidents.
At this time, the capital program for the community colleges and Medgar Evers College totals $600 million, comprising both state and city funding. Even with this substantial program, however, the colleges’ capital needs are not met. Although State funds are fully in place, the Executive Budget does not provide matching City funds of $37.5 million for two major projects: the replacement of Fiterman Hall for Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), and the completion of Academic Building I at Medgar Evers College. These additional funds are necessary to address higher estimates for the cost of demolition and hazardous materials abatement at Fiterman Hall–which we are removing in very controlled increments–and to address cost escalations impacting the construction industry, further exacerbated by the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the reconstruction efforts in the Gulf region.
Our request also includes $12.8 million that will be distributed across the community colleges for projects at the campuses, including the first phase of mechanical/infrastructure upgrades at Bronx Community College and continuing CUNY-wide corrections of health and safety deficiencies identified in the Building Condition Assessment survey conducted in the 1990’s.
Quite simply, we need city funding to move forward on these projects. Our community colleges and Medgar Evers College serve nearly our students in 113 buildings comprising more than 7.1 million gross square feet. It’s no surprise that physical plants of such size require substantial commitments for their maintenance. The State has done its share. We ask that the City meet its responsibility on the capital side, as well.
We appreciate the support we receive from the city. But let us remember that CUNY repays this investment on a day-to-day basis. Its comprehensive citizenship and immigration outreach program surpasses anything offered by any university in the United States, including offering immigration and naturalization services on our campuses and providing free immigration advice through the annual CUNY/Daily News Citizenship Now! Call-In. Students from our accounting programs provide the vast majority of the volunteer corps assisting low-income city residents through the Department of Consumer Affairs’ EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) seminars. Our university continues to register more new voters than all other city agencies combined. These are just a few examples of the public services the university renders, in keeping with the concepts of the Compact and partnership.
Chairperson Barron, Chairperson Weprin, members of the committees (and of course, Speaker Quinn), we deeply appreciate all you have done to assist us in fulfilling our mission in the past, and we look forward to continuing to build on our productive partnership. Thank you.