Facing Down the Fiscal Challenge

AS NEW FIGURES underscore CUNY’s importance to the city’s labor market and economy, the Board of Trustees has approved a University-wide $2.8 billion budget request to state and city officials, which includes an additional $95.2 million for mandatory needs and $63.1 million for programmatic needs over this year’s adjusted levels.

The request, approved by the board on Nov. 22, is based on the University’s financial model, known as the CUNY Compact, which seeks to provide stable funding through a balance of stakeholder responsibilities: public allocations, private philanthropy, operational efficiencies, revenues from increased enrollment and modest, predictable tuition increases to permit families to plan to meet college costs.

CUNYvaluebuttonTo preserve academic programs and meet high enrollment demands amid continuing state and city budget cuts and the difficult economy, the board also approved a 5 percent tuition increase effective spring 2011. Full-time senior college resident undergraduates will be charged an additional $115 and full-time community college students, $75; full-time master’s, doctoral and law school students will face higher hikes, and per-credit rates will rise 5 percent.

The board authorized a 2 percent across-the-board increase effective fall 2011. The board also approved a resolution authorizing the chancellor to increase tuition by an additional 3 percent effective for the 2011-2012 fiscal year contingent on an assessment of the financial condition and budgetary problems of the state and city and the likely effect on the University’s operating aid and the quality of education the University is in a position to provide.

“These tuition increases are unfortunate but necessary for the University to continue to provide the high quality educational opportunity our students deserve,” Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said.

Warning of deeper state cuts to follow the more than $200 million already sliced from the University’s operating budget over the past two years, he said the hikes are needed to stabilize college operations, protect new faculty hired over the last several years and maintain CUNY’s progress in enhancing academic quality and the value of its degrees.

He said CUNY will aggressively work to assure that low-income students eligible for financial aid will be assisted from both public and private sources. The neediest, who receive full federal Pell Grants and New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards, will be insulated from the tuition hikes, which will be modest for most undergraduates, he said.

CUNY students this year received more than $1 billion in aid — including grants, scholarships, work-study and loans — from federal, state, city and institutional sources. Tens of thousands of low-income students receiving full TAP awards will have no additional cost as a result of the proposed 2011-2012 changes, and virtually all TAP recipients with family incomes of less than $50,000 will see no increase. Pell Grant increases earlier this year of $200, from $5,350 to $5,550, also should ease the impact. Pell aid for University students has nearly doubled since 2006.

Even with the tuition increases, CUNY will remain the most affordable quality undergraduate choice in the New York metropolitan area. Current tuition rates — $4,600 per year for state residents enrolled at the senior colleges and $3,150 at the community colleges — are lower than The State University of New York’s $4,970 annually, and rates at most local and regional public and private colleges, many of which are planning tuition hikes in the coming year.

Chancellor Goldstein has been a leading advocate for large public higher education systems grappling with the national erosion of financial support for public colleges and universities. In November, he cosponsored for the second year a national “Summit on Public Higher Education,” where system leaders from SUNY and states including California, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Washington discussed new strategies including increasing operational efficiencies, fundraising and use of academic technology.

The Board of Trustees’ actions will help offset $205 million in budget cuts sustained by CUNY’s senior colleges since 2009 and more than $31 million in cuts to the community colleges in this fiscal year. The spring 2011 tuition increase is meant to fill the gap, in part, of a 2 percent tuition increase that was proposed for this year, 2010-2011, but was never implemented.
In fact, tuition increases have been more the exception than the rule during the past 30 years, with hikes generally coming every five years and students going long periods — up to eight years (1996-2004) — without any increase.

CUNY now serves more than 263,000 degree credit students and over 270,000 adult and continuing education students — the highest level in its history. Among the priorities for Compact funding in 2011-2012 are the hiring of 275 fulltime faculty to keep pace with the growing enrollment, and expanded workforce programs to keep New Yorkers competitive in the changing labor market, including in-demand nursing and healthcare training.

The University contributes significantly to the New York City labor market, playing a critical role in the city’s economy, according to new CUNY figures. The University educates the majority of undergraduates — 56 percent — in New York. The data show that CUNY produces graduates who overwhelmingly remain in the city, to work in in-demand occupations, pay taxes on their higher incomes and pursue additional education.