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State budget keeps funding for CUNY

CUNY will face no significant cuts in the new state budget agreed before the April 1 deadline.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced CUNY would receive over $1.6 billion in the $147.2 billion budget deal agreed by state lawmakers.

This is in contrast to comments made earlier in the year by the Democratic governor on CUNY. He intended to cut state funding to CUNY by $485 million and make New York City’s government pay for it. This figure is equal to one-third of revenue for all senior colleges.

Late last month the Cuomo administration, under pressure from CUNY and activist groups, sought to not pursue the cut.

James Skoufis, a Democrat representing Orange and Rockland County in the State Assembly, said he and other officials in the lower house were glad the $485 million cut was not included in the final.

“If we’re going to say SUNY and CUNY are state-supported colleges, then the state should be the one to invest in them,” Skoufis said.

CUNY and SUNY will both not increase their tuition. In return, the budget will provide $85 million for each to cover the gap.

Skoufis and other lawmakers pushed for a tuition freeze as they felt tuition was a growing burden on students in both institutions. Moreover, Skoufis said he wanted to decrease tuition, something he advocates for in a bill he introduced in the State Assembly.

“I am certainly not in favor of continuing that trend [of increasing tuition],” he said.

Cuomo favored a tuition increase, but acknowledged it was “politically difficult” to enact it because of student pushback.

Chancellor James Milliken felt relieved the $485 million cut was not included. However, he was concerned no tuition policy was created despite approval by the CUNY board of trustees.

“While some additional operating funding was provided for specific programs, the loss of tuition revenue or its equivalent will impact CUNY’s ability to make needed investments in its faculty and staff at a time of record enrollment and increasing graduation rates,” Milliken said.

Tiffany Brown, a higher education organizer at the New York Public Interest Research Group, a government watchdog, welcomed the tuition freeze in the budget, but noted state disinvestment still affects CUNY

“It’s a bit limiting to categorize the final budget as it relates to higher education as a win or lose. For students, the budget means they will finally get a break from annual tuition hikes. More broadly, while the final budget restored the $485 million shift in State funding, which was an unnecessary and baseless cut  that was included in the Executive Budget, it does not include increased funding to make up for years of state disinvestment,” she said.

Still, she stressed there was more the state could do for CUNY.

“For instance, the DREAM Act was not included in the final budget, nor was a real Maintenance of Effort provision, or MOE. A major component of NY SUNY 2020, the MOE mandated the state to provide a steady level of funding from year to year — in essence, promising that CUNY and SUNY would not experience budget cuts.  However, predictable and mandatory inflationary costs like utilities and collective bargaining agreements have not been included and it has cost CUNY and SUNY nearly $200 million, just to maintain existing services,” Brown said.

Despite the restored funding and tuition freeze, Cuomo said the budget does not include labor costs for CUNY, which affects the potential of a new contract for CUNY professors and staff. The proposed amount to cover retroactive pay was $210 million.

But Robert Mujica, budget director for the New York State Division of the Budget, said once a settlement is reached between both sides, then the state will offer the funds.

“When we finally know a number, then we’ll be able to address that at that time,” he said.

 

Brandon Jordan

Brandon is a senior majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Business And Liberal Arts. He covers labor and activism at CUNY. He also likes to cook, bake, run and make puns, sometimes not in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @BrandonJ_R and email him at brandon[at]theknightnews.com.

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