Opinion: New York, invest in CUNY
As New York state lawmakers finalize budgeting for the 2023 fiscal year, we must urge them to increase support for the City University of New York system.
March 30, 2022
The City University of New York public university system desperately needs more funding. It currently offers an amazing education — whether it be through their four-year bachelor’s degree programs, their two-year associate degree programs, professional schools or graduate institutions — at an incredibly affordable price. Tuition for full-time four-year in-state students is $6,930 per year, and $18,600 per year for out-of-state students. CUNY’s affordability is only reinforced by the fact that two in three students attend tuition-free.
Additionally, three CUNY schools are ranked by the CollegeNET among the top 10 for social mobility, which measures “the extent to which a college or university educates more economically disadvantaged students (with family incomes below the national median) at lower tuition and graduates them into good paying jobs,” a key advantage for the predominantly low-income and minority New Yorkers who attend the institution.
The CUNY system is the largest urban public university system in the United States, with 25 colleges across the five boroughs, awarding over 50,000 degrees every year. The overwhelming majority of these students stay in New York City and contribute to the local economy and culture. The CUNY system also serves a student population that is 76.9% Black, Indigenous (American Indian, Native Alaskan), Asian & Pacific Islander or Hispanic as of the fall 2019 semester. More funding for the CUNY system is crucial for millions of working-class New Yorkers and people of color.
The CUNY system, sadly, has been the victim of extensive budgetary cuts. Per-student funding has dropped 18% — adjusted for inflation and enrollment growth — from 2009-2019, according to a 2019 report from the New York City Public Advocate. New York state has provided strong funding through the Tuition Assistance Program, so many CUNY students have felt the impacts of budget cuts through limited resources rather than increasing tuition costs.
With decreased funding, it has been more difficult for CUNY to hire full-time faculty, counselors and advisers to keep up with increased enrollment. Over half of undergraduate CUNY courses are taught by adjunct faculty who earn a starting salary of $3,200 per course. Adjunct professors across the country generally have little pay, no health care benefits and little job security. Many have to take on several courses or even second jobs, leading to burnout and less time to dedicate to students.
CUNY has been forced to cut academic support services, compounding fewer seats in classes and making it difficult for students to register for the classes they need. Fewer advisers and counselors also mean that students have limited access to crucial career and academic advisory services. CUNY’s lack of funding has importantly manifested itself in the actual infrastructure of the school. Many buildings have exposed wiring, persistent flooding, pest infestation and mold. Some CUNY libraries cannot afford new books or journal subscriptions.
Recently, in the state’s preliminary 2023 fiscal year budgets, Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed increased funding for the CUNY system. Hochul’s budget included a $789 million increase from last fiscal year. In this increase, Hochul has proposed $53 million for new full-time faculty and $150 million to expand the Tuition Assistance Program. Though the New York State Senate’s counterproposal would increase funding by $500 million, $289 million less than Hochul’s proposed budget, it included a $200 million increase in operating support funds alongside substantial funding for new and existing full-time faculty. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has also made it a goal to allocate more funding to the CUNY system on behalf of New York City. He proposed to increase funding to the CUNY system by nearly $47 million.
Investing in CUNY means investing in New York City’s future. As NYU students, with many opportunities afforded to us via our school’s expansive funding, we know how deeply impactful it can be to attend a university that provides comprehensive academic and career resources. It can directly lead to future success in graduate school and careers. CUNY students deserve the same security and expansive opportunities — Hochul and the New York state Legislature are commendable for refocusing government funds to this crucial service.
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Contact Srishti Bungle at [email protected]