Chancellor James B. Milliken

Chancellor James B. Milliken

Appointed to start on June 1, 2014, James B. Milliken serves as Chancellor of The City University of New York. »

Testimony submitted to the New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee on the Use of State Aid and Revenue Generated by Tuition Increases

December 12, 2013 | News

Good morning, Chairperson Glick and members of the committee.  I am Bill Kelly, interim chancellor at The City University of New York.  Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today about CUNY’s use of state aid and the revenue generated by recent tuition increases.

This is my first visit with the committee as interim chancellor, so I’d like to take a moment to thank you, on behalf of the University, for your longtime support of CUNY.  The NY-SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program was historic legislation in many ways, enabling the state’s students and their families to plan for the costs of a college education.  And, for the first time, our colleges have had a measure of funding stability and the ability to plan over a period of years with more certainty.  We’re grateful to Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and Senate, and you, in particular, Chairperson Glick, for your leadership and your continued advocacy on behalf of CUNY’s students, faculty, and staff.

The relative stability the legislation has provided is reflected in our enrollment.  While our total enrollment has increased by about 10 percent since 2008, it has remained fairly level over the last three years, at about 270,000, which includes about 20,000 students in our College Now dual enrollment and college-readiness programs.  In addition, we are now serving nearly 248,000 adult and continuing education students.  We continue to manage enrollment carefully to ensure that students can access the programs and services they need.  This involves expanding the scheduling grid to make more courses available at night and on weekends, and targeting advisement to help students define a specific path toward a degree.

Likewise, the diversity of our student body has remained steady over the last few years.  CUNY’s students trace their ancestry to over 200 countries and speak more than 190 languages.  Our undergraduate student body is approximately 29% white, 28% Hispanic, 25% black, and 18% Asian.  Nearly 40% were born outside of the U.S. mainland.  In addition, nearly 40% report an annual household income of less than $20,000.  The racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of our students is one of the University’s greatest strengths; it enriches the academic experience of all students and helps to build a well-prepared and inclusive workforce.  We are deeply committed to sustaining that diversity.

Enriching students’ learning experience is also the goal that drives our investment decisions.  As this year’s budget request indicates, our funding priority remains the hiring of new full-time faculty.  Our investments over the past decade have resulted in a net 23% increase in full-time faculty. However, that significant progress has been countered by unprecedented enrollment growth during the same period, slowing our ability to increase the percentage of courses taught by full-time faculty.  This year we are continuing that work by hiring 325 new faculty members.  And through our 2015 budget request, we hope to hire 425 more.  It is my strong belief that nothing is as important to the future of this University as building a world-class faculty.

This fall alone, we have already hired nearly 250 new full-time faculty across our colleges.  The numbers and disciplines range from campus to campus.  For example, there were 18 hires at Queens College, including faculty in earth and environmental sciences, economics, and anthropology; 52 hires at Baruch College, including faculty in management, statistics, and history; and 13 hires at Queensborough Community College, including faculty in English, nursing, and mathematics and computer science.  Of course, numbers tell only a piece of the story; they can’t fully reflect the individual talents of our new scholars and their potential impact on students.  Our new faculty include one of the leading historians of Africa, a nationally renowned mathematician, a distinguished filmmaker, and an award-winning scientist focusing on public health.  Each brings a wealth of scholarly and teaching experience to our colleges, and their hiring represents a strong commitment by each campus to provide students with the best learning experience possible.

We are also expanding and refining the academic programs available to students.  Over the last three years, 40 new academic programs across our colleges have been approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees.   Students can now take advantage of a new master’s degree in financial risk management at Baruch College; an online baccalaureate degree in nursing from the School of Professional Studies; a new associate degree in game design at Hostos Community College; and a new master’s degree in branding and integrated communications at City College, to name only a few.  In addition, eight new associate degree programs were developed for Guttman Community College, which just opened in 2012.

Each of the new degrees at our campuses has been developed through careful assessment of labor markets, the college’s strengths, and the needs of students, with an eye toward creating pathways toward long-term professional growth and advanced study.  Today, the University offers approximately 2,100 degree-granting programs: 70 at the doctoral level, 660 at the master’s level, 700 at the baccalaureate level, 260 associate degrees, and nearly 400 graduate and undergraduate certificate programs.

The state has been a critical partner in our efforts to identify excellent faculty and programs for our students.  As you know, a partnership among the University, state and city government, philanthropists, alumni, and students is the foundation of our CUNY Compact initiative.  As a result of state aid appropriated in 2013-14, our community colleges received an additional $12.3 million from the $150-per-FTE base-aid increase.  This funding is being used in part to cover mandatory costs at the colleges, including fringe benefits and energy, and to support college investment plans.  At the senior colleges, an additional $36.4 million was provided to cover the increased costs of fringe benefits.

The $300 tuition increase from the 2011 rational tuition policy generates about $51 million per year at the senior colleges.  Of this amount, $12.2 million is needed to cover the TAP tuition credit.  As the authorized increases in future years become effective, this amount will grow proportionally.  In the current year, the tuition credit totals $29 million.  At the community colleges, the tuition increase generates $24 million annually. CUNY community college tuition is still below the $5,000 TAP maximum, so there is no tuition credit.

The revenue generated from these increases has thus far been used to support programmatic enhancements at the colleges.  As I noted, the addition of new full-time faculty remains a priority.  In addition, a portion of the revenue is being used to provide additional financial aid to students whose matriculation is at risk because they cannot afford the increase.  Investments have also been made in student support programs such as academic advisement, counseling, career services, and veterans’ services.

In addition to tuition revenue, program enhancements have been supported by the colleges’ philanthropy efforts and through productivity savings.

As part of the challenge grant program, state aid for the senior colleges has remained stable for the past three years and has covered the largest increases in our fixed costs, which are fringe benefits.  We are very grateful for this support.  However, looking ahead, we are concerned about other significant fixed-cost increases. The University is contractually mandated to provide step and longevity increases to its faculty and staff.  The lack of additional state aid for this purpose results in a loss of purchasing power at the colleges.  Productivity savings, which have been redirected to academic and student support program enhancements, will need to be used to cover increasing fixed costs.  In addition, going forward we will no longer be able to use the tuition revenue generated from the rate increases solely for program support; we will need to utilize them to cover fixed-cost increases.

I would add that a robust, multi-year capital program is an essential part of our investment strategy, as our recent capital budget request indicates.  CUNY maintains the largest urban system of public higher education facilities in the country, and about 60 percent of the space on our campuses is more than 30 years old, with the average building age exceeding 50 years.  Modernizing our learning spaces and ensuring the safety and security of our facilities are critical to our ability to fulfill our academic mission.

As you well know, affordability also remains a key concern.  I should emphasize that with the help of the state, and this committee in particular, CUNY represents a tremendous value in higher education.  Nearly 60% of our full-time undergraduates attend tuition free, thanks in part to federal Pell grants, the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, and CUNY’s own financial aid programs.  Relatively low tuition enables the majority of our undergraduates—including low-income students, veterans, and scholarship recipients—to cover college costs without having to borrow.  In fact, almost 80% of full-time students are debt free when they graduate from CUNY.  By comparison, just last week it was reported that nationwide, four-year graduates with student loans had an average debt of $29,400.  We are grateful for your efforts to ensure that New York’s students not only experience a high-quality college education but also graduate with a degree unburdened by heavy debt.

CUNY students also have a wealth of scholarship opportunities, thanks in large part to philanthropic and private support. Since 2000, the University’s Invest in CUNY campaign has raised more than $725 million for scholarships from private donors. Numerous scholarships and awards based on merit, need, specialized interests, or other factors are offered throughout our colleges and schools.  A particular point of pride is that our students are increasingly winning nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, as well—including the record 23 students who won National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships this year.

Funds raised through the Invest in CUNY campaign have increased in each of the last three fiscal years.  In fiscal year 2013, nearly $250 million was raised across the campuses.  We’re proud that three-quarters of our philanthropic support is directed toward students, faculty, and academic programs, and most of the remainder goes toward facilities and equipment.  We’re especially gratified by the most recent support of the University.  A few examples include a $25 million gift from the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation for Guttman Community College and related community-college programs; a $25 million gift from Toby and Leon Cooperman to Hunter College for a scholarship program and the college’s library; and a $5 million gift from General Colin Powell to City College’s Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.  This support is an emphatic demonstration of confidence in the University by both individuals and foundations.  Going forward, we will continue to prioritize our fund-raising efforts as an essential component of our compact approach to funding.

It’s well worth noting that this combination of public and private support has allowed the University to serve as an important contributor to the growth of New York’s economy.  CUNY colleges account for more than a third of the business and finance degrees awarded by New York City institutions, about one-third of the city’s public school teachers, and a high percentage of the nurses and health and science technicians employed by local medical facilities. What’s more, 80 percent of CUNY graduates currently live and work and pay taxes in New York State.

The University is pleased to extend its role in accelerating the state’s economic development through its participation in the Start-Up NY program.  The initiative, which was announced in October by Governor Cuomo with the support of the State Legislature, authorizes the creation of tax-free zones on university campuses statewide for new and expanding businesses.  Five CUNY campuses, each located in an economically distressed community, were designated by our board to participate in the program and host tax-free zones: City College, Medgar Evers College, York College, Bronx Community College, and The College of Staten Island.

The five colleges are now preparing their designation plans with assistance from CUNY’s Office of Facilities Planning, Construction and Management.  These plans include several key elements: identifying the space or land proposed to be designated as a tax-free area; describing the types of businesses the college intends to attract; explaining how the participating business will generate community and economic benefit; and outlining a process for selecting the business.  CUNY expects to submit the plans to Empire State Development (ESD) in early 2014, 30 days after distributing them to student government, faculty senate, local development groups, and elected officials, as required by the Start-Up legislation and regulations.

Businesses have been contacting the CUNY central office and the colleges to indicate interest in the program.  The University will turn its attention to outreach and marketing to identify businesses in early 2014 after the plans have been approved by ESD.

My thanks again to you, Chairperson Glick, and your colleagues for the opportunity to speak to you today—and, not least, for your strong commitment to New York’s higher education systems.  All of us at CUNY deeply appreciate your effective advocacy on behalf of our students, and we look forward to working in partnership with you to sustain their advancement.