October 18, 2007 | CUNY Matters Columns
This fall the University welcomed 800 talented new faculty members to its 23 colleges and professional schools. I am delighted that students and the community alike will benefit from the expertise and experience of scholar-teachers in disciplines ranging from biology to art history to journalism.
Increasing the ranks of full-time faculty is a high priority for the University and one of the initiatives in our 2004-2008 Master Plan. We know that faculty are the backbone of the University, fulfilling its mission to serve students and society through the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Being able to hire new faculty was one of the key motivations for the creation of the CUNY Compact–the new model of financing public higher education that we introduced two years ago.
Prior to the CUNY Compact, funding for public higher education in New York was determined on a year-to-year basis. This discouraged long-term investment and made public universities vulnerable to economic downturns. Students were hurt when large, unexpected tuition increases were used to cover operating expenses unmet by insufficient public funding.
In order to increase public support, keep tuition manageable, and create new revenue sources within the University, I proposed, and the Board of Trustees supported, a new funding partnership: the CUNY Compact. This investment plan delineates shared responsibility for financing the University among government, the University, its alumni and friends, and its students.
The Compact asks the State and the City of New York to cover the University’s mandatory costs (such as energy and labor contracts) and at least 20 percent of the academic initiatives in the four-year Master Plan. The remainder of the funding for investments comes from the University, in the form of increased philanthropic revenues, internal restructuring and efficiency measures, managed enrollment growth, and tuition increases, not to exceed the Higher Education Price Index over the life of the plan. A critical part of the Compact is that revenue from tuition increases would go exclusively toward funding programmatic initiatives in the Master Plan, with recommendations from CUNY students and faculty. Over the last two years, the state provided revenue in lieu of tuition increases.
We are now in the second successful year of the CUNY Compact, and we are seeing the results of a renewed focus on investment. In its first year, Compact funding allowed both senior and community colleges to hire additional faculty. It helped the University to launch the School of Journalism and the School of Professional Studies. Millions of dollars were invested to expand technology in teaching, including science instrumentation and electronic library acquisitions, and to expand student services, including additional counseling staff, child care, veterans’ support, and student fellowships. Information management systems were upgraded, and new computer hardware and software were purchased. All of these areas are priorities outlined in the University’s current Master Plan.
Our 2008-09 budget will continue to focus on investing in the University, particularly in two key CUNY-wide initiatives, the Decade of Science and the Campaign for Student Success. Our decade-long focus on increasing participation and proficiency in the sciences, at all levels, will be assisted by funding for new faculty, fellowships for doctoral students, and high-end equipment. Our Campaign for Student Success, which seeks to cultivate and sustain a culture of accomplishment throughout the University, is targeted for investment through continued faculty growth and enhanced advising, counseling, financial aid management, and other student services.
Simultaneously, the University’s new five-year capital request, covering 2008-09 through 2012-13, is being developed through a consultative process with the CUNY colleges. Ongoing funding to support science facilities on several campuses, as well as the University-wide Advanced Science Research Center, will be a priority, as will infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, to ensure that CUNY’s buildings will be able to serve students well into the future. Compact funding is already making a difference in our capital plans, as well; last year, almost $4 million was invested in facilities improvements across the University.
By taking as its starting place the University’s Master Plan, the Compact appropriately emphasizes our academic initiatives as the foundation of our funding requests. Development of the 2008-12 Master Plan is now under way, with input from every CUNY campus. A continued funding partnership through the CUNY Compact will enable our ongoing plans to build a university of national renown to become a reality.