January 27, 2010 | Speeches and Testimony
Good morning, Chairman Kruger, Vice Chairwoman Krueger, Chairman Farrell, Senator Stavisky, Assemblywoman Glick, members of the Finance, Ways and Means, and Higher Education committees, staff, and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today about The City University of New York and the 2010-11 State Executive Budget Proposal. I will ask the senior officers of the University accompanying me to introduce themselves, starting on my left.
I come to you at an unprecedented moment in CUNY’s history, when we are experiencing our highest enrollment to date: more than 260,000 degree-credit students, including more high-achieving students than ever before. While we know that economic hardships have driven many New Yorkers to college to acquire new skills and attain additional certification, our decade-long growth is also a manifestation of two ongoing factors. First, the University continues to be recognized for its academic quality and has become a destination for students seeking an exemplary education. Second, students are coming to CUNY better prepared for college-level work, and we are therefore seeing better retention across the University.
We take great pride in the increased interest in CUNY and the improved performance by CUNY students. However, our explosion in enrollment—an additional 65,000 students since 1999—poses serious challenges. The need for faculty and the demands on space are also at unprecedented levels. With our freshman applications for fall 2010 also showing a double-digit increase, we expect these demands to grow even more urgent.
At the same time, the University’s commitment to quality is unwavering. The Macaulay Honors College’s class of 2013 has an average SAT score of close to 1400. A recent Macaulay graduate, Ryan Merola, was just named one of nine scholars nationally to be a 2011 Mitchell Scholar. Students across the CUNY campuses are also winning competitive national awards; most recently, five CUNY students were awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships for 2009.
Hunter College was named the nation’s No. 2 “Best Value Public College for 2010” by the Princeton Review and USA Today. Queens College and Baruch College were named to the Princeton Review’s “Best Northeastern Colleges” list. In November, Hunter College Distinguished Lecturer Colum McCann won the 2009 National Book Award in fiction, the top American prize for literature. And three outstanding educators joined the University in 2009: Karen Gould, president of Brooklyn College, Félix Matos Rodriguez, president of Hostos Community College, and William Pollard, president of Medgar Evers College.
We are also very pleased to announce that based on recent actions by the national accrediting agency, we anticipate that the new CUNY School of Public Health will soon be fully accredited. It is the first public school of public health in New York City and the only one in the country to focus on urban health. Two prominent scholars and medical doctors from Harvard Medical School, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, recently accepted offers to join the CUNY School of Public Health.
These are only a few of the countless ways that the entire University community is working diligently to give students the best educational experience possible. Just as our citizens turn to public higher education to help them prepare for an uncertain future, so, too, does the state depend on CUNY and SUNY to build the workforce and innovation capacity of New York. I know that Chancellor Nancy Zimpher shares our deep commitment to serving our state and its students, and she and I will continue to work together—and in partnership with the governor and the legislature—to advance this critical goal.
Our 2010-11 budget request, adopted unanimously by the CUNY Board of Trustees, reflects that commitment. It marks the fifth year of the CUNY Compact, our multiyear financing approach that offers an economically efficient way to finance the University by delineating shared responsibility among partners and creating opportunities to leverage funds. It prioritizes the University’s needs in meeting the demands of a rapidly growing student body, including additional full-time faculty, expanded student services, facility improvements, and educational technology. These are requests that address the very core of the University’s mission to ensure that students have the academic grounding they need to compete in an unforgiving marketplace.
All of us at CUNY appreciate that the State Executive Budget calls for full funding of the University’s mandatory costs, consistent with the CUNY Compact.
For our senior colleges, the Executive Budget recommends a total of $1.8 billion, which reflects a decrease of state support of about $84 million, offset by additional funding of $91 million for mandatory costs and collective bargaining and $11 million from the FY 2010 tuition increase. The $11 million reflects an increase from 20 percent to 30 percent in the amount of the FY 2010 tuition increase retained by the University. A portion of the $84 million reduction, about $21 million, is related to across-the-board proposals to reduce salary and fringe benefits costs, to be negotiated with the unions.
The proposed reduction will have a very real effect on the work of our senior colleges. Since 1999, these colleges have together welcomed almost 38,000 additional students to their campuses—nearly an entire NYU. Our colleges remain uncompromising in their commitment to academic quality. But the fact remains that continued budget cuts combined with growing enrollments means a serious strain on resources and an acute need to add full-time faculty and academic support personnel.
Let me discuss the Executive Budget’s proposed Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which recommends a number of adjustments related to tuition and regulatory provisions. The act would allow CUNY and SUNY to receive and disburse revenues from tuition and self-supporting program activities without an appropriation. It would also authorize the CUNY Board of Trustees to raise tuition incrementally up to an annual cap of two and one-half times the five-year rolling average of the Higher Education Price Index. I would note that the Board of Trustees recently approved our budget request proposal to increase tuition rates by 2 percent for fall 2010. The act also permits differential tuition rates by campus and program. As we indicated through meetings and recommendations of the New York State Commission on Higher Education, CUNY has long supported differential tuition by program, informed by market competition and price elasticity. The act would also allow for greater flexibility in procurement procedures, and we fully support this effort to improve the efficiency of our purchasing.
The State Executive Budget also recommends a reduction in community-college base aid of $285 per FTE for next year, which would be a decrease of $21.8 million. The proposed reduction follows this year’s base-aid cut of $130 per FTE, bringing the total reduction, if enacted, to a $415-per-FTE cut. The proposed base-aid cuts would reduce the rate to $2,260 per FTE—the lowest rate since 2005.
Members of the committees, all of us at the University are deeply concerned about the proposed community-college reduction. Community colleges are the largest and fastest-growing sector of higher education and enroll almost half of our country’s undergraduates. They are essential to our nation’s recovery effort, a pipeline to jobs. In New York City, where the jobless rate just rose to 10.6 percent, CUNY’s six community colleges are leading the way toward recovery, serving more than 88,000 students.
More than ever, New Yorkers rely on our community colleges for their professional advancement, through job training, professional development, and career-ladder opportunities. Our six community colleges are obligated to meet an extraordinary array of academic needs for the most diverse group of students, whether that’s state-of-the-art training programs for emerging industries, specialized cohorts to improve academic performance and graduation rates, or additional advisement to assist returning students. Their work on behalf of our students continues to be nationally recognized. What’s more, almost 97 percent of our most recent associate-degree recipients reside in the state, contributing to its progress.
Today, however, our community colleges are bursting at the seams, in serious need of faculty and classrooms to meet unprecedented demand. In order to meet that demand, as well as the workforce needs of the state, they must have appropriate support and the full restoration of their funding.
The 2010-11 Executive Budget also recommends several changes to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). In the 2008-09 academic year, 75,000 CUNY students received $178 million in TAP awards. This financial assistance makes it possible for many of our students to pursue and attain a college degree. We are concerned that the recommendations include an across-the-board reduction of $75 to TAP awards. CUNY accounts for about 20 percent of students statewide who receive TAP, students who are among the poorest in the state. The University’s priority will always be to assist the neediest students. Financial aid is most equitable when it is aimed at students with the greatest need and those in the hard-pressed middle class.
Let me introduce the subject of the capital budget by returning to a point I made earlier. CUNY’s unprecedented enrollment growth, while a welcome indication of New Yorkers’ confidence in the University to help them prepare for the workplace and compete for fewer jobs, has also created a pressing demand for space and a pronounced strain on our facilities. Our campuses are open seven days a week, and classes are scheduled throughout the day, increasing the wear and tear on classrooms and common areas. As you know, CUNY does not have land to build additional facilities; we must maintain and upgrade our existing buildings. As a result, our facilities program remains a high priority for the University.
We are very grateful for the generous appropriations allocated over the last few budget cycles. Recent events at our campuses demonstrate the progress that has been made to increase space and meet educational needs. These include the groundbreaking for the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, which will include the CUNY School of Public Health, in East Harlem, the new Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and the topping out of both the building expansion at John Jay College and the North Instructional Building at Bronx Community College. We have also selected an appropriate new site for the CUNY School of Law in Long Island City, Queens, and are moving forward with facility plans. I appreciate your support of these important efforts, all of which are alleviating space pressures caused by increased demand for the nationally recognized programs at these colleges and schools.
These projects also illustrate the ways that CUNY has been leveraging its capital funding through public-private partnerships. These much-needed buildings—whether the School of Social Work, the law school, or our residential halls at CCNY and Queens College—were made possible through innovative collaborations with private developers. Anything that can be done to expedite such efforts in the future is greatly appreciated.
Still, many of our campuses are in disrepair and badly in need of modernization. Over 65 percent of CUNY’s buildings are more than 30 years old, and some of the University’s buildings are more than 100 years old. In 2007, CUNY, in partnership with SUNY, completed a facilities analysis that showed that CUNY has a backlog of more than $1.7 billion in critical maintenance needs. With the support of the legislature, for the last two years CUNY has received funding for critical maintenance projects, including those at our community colleges, to be matched by the city. I am very pleased that this year the Executive Budget recommends another $284 million allocation for our senior colleges and almost $35 million for community-college projects, including urgent needs such as LaGuardia Community College’s Center 3 Building façade replacement, continued utility upgrades at Bronx Community College, and electrical upgrades at Queensborough Community College. We are grateful for this attention to our maintenance needs. Ongoing maintenance allows us to prevent the greater, long-term expenses that inevitably result from deferrals.
The Executive Budget also includes a $256 million dollar reduction in the CUNY capital disbursements cap over the next five years, limiting the University’s ability to fit new projects into its plan. I must point out that, in this economy, spending on construction makes sense. Costs are now lower, and much-needed jobs can be created. For every $10 million spent in construction, it is estimated that 60 jobs are created at the job site and 30 jobs are created offsite in materials fabrication on an annual basis.
CUNY’s capital program has also benefited from the compact approach to financing, which relies not only on public funding but on the University’s ability to raise considerable private funds. A public-private partnership, which leverages all funds, often provides an incentive to those wishing to support public higher education. Reductions to facilities funding could impede private fund-raising efforts.
Chairman Kruger, Vice Chairwoman Krueger, Chairman Farrell, Senator Stavisky, Assemblywoman Glick, and members of the Senate and Assembly, all of us at CUNY are grateful for your longtime support of CUNY and public higher education in New York. These are undoubtedly challenging times, but we are confident that by working in partnership with you, CUNY can continue to be a powerful vehicle for New York’s economic and social revitalization. Thank you.