I applaud the New York State Commission on Higher Education’s recommendations to reinvigorate public higher education in our state. We owe it to the students and people of New York State to provide new and real investment in CUNY and SUNY. New Yorkers deserve public universities whose stature is nationally recognized, whose programs are highly valued, and whose graduates are deeply respected. This is increasingly essential in today’s highly competitive global environment. It will require a new and bold approach. The commission’s call for a New York State Compact for Public Higher Education leads the way.
By delineating shared responsibility for public higher education resources, the New York State Compact for Public Higher Education would renew public investment in our public universities. As The City University of New York has affirmed since introducing the CUNY Compact two years ago, a partnership among stakeholders is critical to generating the resources necessary for true investment.
New York must take strong, uncompromising steps to foster excellence within its public higher education institutions. The commission recognizes the key role that faculty play in creating academic distinction. Its recommendation to rebuild the CUNY and SUNY faculty ranks through the hiring of a minimum of 2,000 additional full-time faculty over the next five years is crucial to achieving genuine progress. In 1975, CUNY employed more than 11,000 full-time faculty. Today, 6,500 full-time faculty work at the University. This is a decrease of more than 40%, although our student enrollment has grown to its highest level in over three decades. The commission’s recommendation would help to reverse this pronounced decline.
In addition, without adequate facilities, faculty and students cannot do their best work. The commission rightly recommends a strong program of capital reinvestment to address the backlog of critical maintenance at CUNY and SUNY.
I commend the commission’s recommendation to provide regulatory relief for CUNY and SUNY and remove the restrictions that impede our campuses’ ability to adapt quickly and promote quality. The state’s public universities must be able to move nimbly and aggressively to ensure every advantage for students. New York’s students will also be aided by the commission’s recommendation to ensure that high school graduates are well prepared for college through the New York State College Readiness Act. CUNY’s College Now program has demonstrated the importance of supplementary work in high school to improve readiness and facilitate progress toward a degree, particularly at community colleges.
The commission’s emphasis on strengthening public higher education and the CUNY and SUNY systems, pursuant to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s executive order, is laudable and essential to the future health of New York State. The commission’s recommendationsâ€”focused on serious investment, student access and preparation, increased faculty, innovative research, and economic developmentâ€”are an urgent call to enable the state’s public institutions and their students to remain nationally competitive and to contribute to the state’s well-being. New Yorkers deserve nothing less.