New Budget Challenges Inspire New Strategies

January 23, 2009 | CUNY Matters Columns

The University continues to monitor city, state, and federal developments that affect CUNY’s budget.

With New York State facing its largest budget deficit in state history—a $1.7 billion shortfall this year and $13.7 billion in 2009-10—the budget recommends a series of actions to generate savings. The New York State Legislature is reviewing the Executive Budget and will hold hearings in January, in which the University will participate. In order to generate the savings proposed by the governor, the 2009-10 Executive Budget must be approved by the New York State Legislature by March 1, a month prior to the start of the fiscal year.

The University Budget Office and the Office of Facilities Planning, Construction and Management have prepared a preliminary analysis of the Executive Budget as it pertains to CUNY.

For our senior colleges, the proposed budget recommends an overall increase of almost $51 million over the current year: a decrease of almost $65 million offset by over $115 million in additional tuition and fee revenue, based on a tuition increase of $600 for full-time resident undergraduates at CUNY.

We are pleased that, for the first time, the Executive has proposed an investment plan that would allow a portion of the revenue from a tuition increase to be returned to the University, consistent with the principles of the CUNY Compact. For FY 2009-10, CUNY would retain 20 percent of the additional revenue for investment purposes.

The CUNY Board of Trustees has authorized the chancellor, in consultation with the chairman, to adopt a revised student tuition schedule. The new schedule includes tuition increases of up to $300 per semester for full-time resident undergraduates attending CUNY’s senior colleges, and up to $200 per semester for full-time resident undergraduates attending the University’s community colleges.
At the same time, the board approved a plan that I advanced to establish an Institutional Financial Aid Initiative to assist students who will be placed at risk of continuing their matriculation due to higher tuition rates, as well as to drive down the cost of textbooks for CUNY students.
This includes a CUNY Work-Study Program that will make jobs on CUNY campuses available to students in need of financial assistance. The University has created a Web site to help students obtain full-time and part-time work and internships. Our partners include the U.S. Census Bureau, the New York State Civil Service Commission, the Unified Court System, New York City’s 311 Customer Service Call Center, and many other organizations and agencies.
In addition, the State Executive Budget recommends an increase of capital funding for critical maintenance projects and selected facilities projects, including the CUNY-wide Advanced Science Research Center at City College. The University is committed to continued efforts to modernize our campus facilities with the appropriate renovations and technology to meet the educational and research needs of our students and faculty. CUNY is currently experiencing its highest enrollment in almost four decades, attracting high academic achievers in record number and a diverse student body rich in talent and ambition.

On the city side, all city agencies have been asked to submit plans for reductions of up to 7 percent in city funding for FY2010, which amounts to $12.7 million for CUNY. This is in addition to an existing proposed reduction of $9.5 million. In December, an agreement was reached to restore a previously proposed reduction of $5.1 million to the community colleges for this year. We are very grateful to Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and the entire City Council for these and other efforts to minimize, wherever possible, the impact of the city’s financial difficulties on CUNY’s students.

At an October “Summit on Public Higher Education” convened by CUNY and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, there was widespread agreement among the assembled chancellors and presidents that public institutions must work in partnership with the governors, mayors, and the federal government. Following the summit, a statement, signed by many institutional leaders and national and state organizations, was sent to President-elect Obama. This “open letter,” which also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe, proposes immediate federal investment as part of the infrastructure stimulus package.

I have been encouraged by the commitment among public university leaders to strengthening higher education’s critical role in advancing the nation’s well-being.

The University will continue to work closely with our federal, state, and city partners to sustain and enhance CUNY’s core academic priorities: maximizing the availability of full-time faculty and providing quality student services to our growing student body.

Every day, I have the privilege of witnessing the singular contributions of our faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni to our academic mission, and to the larger community. CUNY stands apart in its dedication to service, and I deeply appreciate the work that you do on behalf of our students and all New Yorkers.