What Added State Funding Achieves

April 13, 2012 | CUNY Matters Columns

Anyone who calls one of CUNY’s community colleges home knows that these campuses are some of the busiest places in the city.  The six colleges—soon to be seven, with the opening of the New Community College in the fall—serve more than 96,000 students, an increase of almost 20,000 students in just the last five years.  In addition, they welcome nearly 130,000 students in continuing education programs.

All of the campuses—Borough of Manhattan, Bronx, Hostos, Kingsborough, LaGuardia, and Queensborough—are engaged in creative work to advance student success.  A community-college education is not a one-size-fits-all education.  Our colleges offer targeted programs to meet every need, from two-year degrees to job training to professional-development certificates.  Each program requires skilled faculty and professional staff, individualized advising and counseling, updated information technology, and modern facilities.  As our enrollment has grown, so has the demand for these services. 

That’s why the passage of a 2012-13 New York State budget that includes increased funding for community colleges is significant.  Over the last four fiscal years, our community colleges have sustained reductions in state funding of $553 per full-time-equivalent student (FTE)—a 20 percent cut.

This year, a $150-per-FTE increase—creating a $12.2 million total increase in base aid—will help the University address the growing needs of our community colleges.  Funds will be used to create a Community College Investment Program to support new faculty, academic and student services, libraries, the implementation of the Pathways initiative, and other key areas at the six colleges.

The Community College Investment Program will be modeled after a program implemented at CUNY in 2003.  Those funds enabled the community colleges to strengthen full-time faculty ranks, extend support services such as advisement, financial aid, and admissions, expand library acquisitions, and invest in instructional equipment and laboratory facilities.  Colleges were able to target areas critical to improving students’ educational experience and success.

Supporting students’ specific needs remains a priority across our community colleges.  For example, a recent $20 million federal grant—the only one received in New York State—will enable CUNY to assist out-of-work adult New Yorkers who are changing careers.  The grant was awarded to a consortium of our six community colleges, along with the College of Staten Island and New York City College of Technology, for training and workforce development.

Other programs facilitate progress for students at all stages of college readiness.  For students with minimal remedial needs, we are expanding the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP initiative.  ASAP students have experienced a graduation rate that is double that of a comparison group.  Students with needs in reading, writing, and mathematics can defer matriculation and enroll in CUNY Start, an immersion program that accelerate preparedness for college-level courses and preserves financial aid.  The majority of CUNY Start students test out of at least one area of remediation, and all make significant progress in meeting remedial needs.

These and many other programs are helping students advance their academic proficiency.  In fact, the number of students transferring from associate degree programs to baccalaureate degree programs increased by 71 percent from 2001 through 2010. 

The state budget also includes almost $58 million in mandatory needs funding for the senior colleges, including adjunct health insurance, as advocated for by the University.  I am particularly pleased that $1 million was included for the CUNY LEADS program (Linking Employment, Academics, and Disability Services), which focuses on improving academic success and employment opportunities for students with disabilities, through career counseling and job-placement assistance.  To date, students who are job-ready have a 72 percent employment rate, compared to the 56 percent national employment rate for people with disabilities.

In addition, $544,000 for CUNY’s child-care centers was restored to the budget.  CUNY has 19 campus-based child-care centers enrolling approximately 1,350 children of CUNY student parents.  All of the programs offer first-rate early care and education programs.  The availability of high-quality child care is essential to enabling our student parents to access a college education as they balance the demands of family, work, and school. 

The state budget also reflects continued support for CUNY’s capital program, including our University-wide critical maintenance initiative.  Keeping our facilities in a state of good repair has been a high priority at CUNY.  The majority of our 27 million square feet of campus space is more than 30 years old, and the average building is more than 50 years old.  Growing enrollment has increased the wear and tear on our campuses, which are open seven days a week, with classes scheduled throughout the day—so we must be vigilant in addressing critical maintenance issues across the University. 

I am very grateful for the determined efforts of the University community, especially our faculty and students, to advocate for appropriate funding for CUNY.  Together, we will continue to strengthen the high-quality education students expect at the University.