Trustees Approve 2017-18 Operating and Capital Budget Requests

The Board of Trustees has approved the University’s 2017-2018 operating budget request, which seeks $235 million in additional support to significantly improve access to higher education, student retention, graduation rates and faculty advisement, and better serve the needs of CUNY’s 270,000 degree-credit and 270,000 adult and continuing education students.

 “With the 2017-2018 Budget Request, the University enhances its capacity to carry out its mission of access and opportunity for New Yorkers and its commitment to meet the economic and educational needs of New York State and New York City,” the Board’s resolution, passed Wednesday night, stated. “CUNY’s strategic priorities … align with the priorities of the State and City.”

Board Chairperson William C. Thompson thanked the Board’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs for its “great” work on the proposal, while Board Vice Chairperson Barry Schwartz, Chairperson of the Board’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, called it “a very thoughtful, forward-looking budget.” 

This is the first time that the University administration, working with the Board of Trustees, has developed a four-year financing plan to support the University’s four-year Master Plan. The four-year plan projects new funding needs and proposed funding changes for fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2021.

Chancellor James B. Milliken told the Trustees that the 2017-2018 budget request is “an important statement about our goals and strategies,” and “reflects our priorities for supporting hundreds of thousands of students.” He said the aims and initiatives detailed in the Master Plan will “lead to a transformation of our University” and leave CUNY graduates “increasingly well prepared” for the knowledge-based careers of the 21st century. 

He added that the University plans to reallocate CUNY funds “to support our highest priorities,” and that there will be an “increased emphasis” on philanthropy.

The Trustees also approved the University’s $6.8 billion, five-year capital budget request for fiscal year 2017-2018 through fiscal year 2021-2022 for projects “to address critical maintenance, infrastructure, and programmatic initiatives in support of the University’s mission.” The request includes $5.1 billion for the senior colleges and $1.7 billion for the community colleges, with projects – including science facilities upgrades, CUNY-wide technology and construction of new classrooms — to be funded primarily through bonds sold by the state and city. The capital budget request was recommended by the Board’s Committee on Facilities Planning and Management.  

CUNY’s operating budget request seeks additional funds for mandatory needs such as collective bargaining agreements, contractual salary increments, fringe benefits and building rentals; increased operating support for senior and community colleges, and funding to close the gap between students’ state Tuition Assistance Program awards and their tuition. “State and City funding of fixed mandatory needs, such as contractually required incremental salary increases, and fringe benefit and building rental cost increases, will allow existing funding to remain in programmatic areas so that the University can continue to provide high quality services in support of its statutory mission and its commitment to all New Yorkers,” the resolution added.

It also requests more investment in faculty, academics, initiatives to expand access, improve college and career preparation; help low-income students stay in school, and “sharply increase” graduation rates. These initiatives include:

♣    The Bridge to Completion program, for which the University is requesting $17.5 million, which would assist students within 30 credits of graduation and in good standing who have exhausted their Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) aid, helping them to stay in school and on track for graduation. 

♣    The Faculty Partnership for Student Success Initiative, aimed at raising success rates by enhancing “support for faculty mentoring students and interacting with students in small groups to provide both academic as well as career advisement,” according to the request. The University seeks $35 million to support the goal – agreed to by the Professional Staff Congress and the University as part of the recent collective bargaining agreement – of reducing the annual full-time undergraduate teaching load by three hours. This would allow faculty more time for mentoring, student and academic advisement, office hours and research.

♣    CUNY Connect, in which CUNY students are hired to work as peer mentors with 11th and 12th grade students in New York City public high schools “to support the college access and transition process for students.” The CUNY Connect mentors will be trained and work a total of 210 hours between November and August. During July and August, the mentors focus on improving recent graduates’ enrollment rates.

♣    An emphasis on more online education, which would expand access by attracting students, such as adult, working students or those with demanding family obligations and schedules who might not otherwise enroll at CUNY or in higher education.  “Online and hybrid learning platforms are essential to CUNY’s mission in the years to come,” the budget request stated. “Reducing barriers of time and distance, online and hybrid courses and programs can potentially increase access and improve degree completion rates, contribute much needed revenues to CUNY’s colleges, and help mitigate constraints of physical space.”

 The University is requesting $10 million from the city to help close the gap between students’ maximum TAP award and their tuition. This year, CUNY will issue $51 million in TAP tuition credits to meet the state Legislature’s requirement that the University close those gaps. 

The University’s 2017-2018 request also seeks a four-year extension of CUNY’s predictable tuition policy to align with the Master Plan, which is less than the five-year extension sought in the past. The proposed maximum annual tuition increases are smaller: $250 instead of $300 at the senior colleges and $100 at the community colleges, although University Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Sapienza noted at the Fiscal Affairs committee meeting this week that 2017-2018 community college tuition would be frozen at its current rate for a second year, if funding needs included in the budget request is provided. 

The more modest tuition plan “will enable the University to finance its strategic plan, in addition to being responsive to our continued goal of student affordability,” the budget request stated. “Increases would be capped at $250 a year … to be responsive to calls for affordability” while limiting community college tuition increases to $100 a year over the four-year period will “support those most in need.” 

“Even with these increases,” the budget request notes, “CUNY’s in-state tuition will continue to be well below the average of public universities in the country and combined with New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), it will keep college affordable to all our residents.” 

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY School of Medicine, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 274,350 degree-seeking students and 260,000 adult and continuing education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.