After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget was released, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) called upon the state to increase funding for higher education.
The bigger investment would go toward programs and faculty, a sector of education the Excelsior Scholarship takes money from to make up for unpaid tuition.
State support for higher education is below 2009 levels, after adjusting for inflation.
Andy Pallotta, president of NYSUT, said more resources are required in addition to investment increases to fund full-time faculty, course offerings and student support services.
“A greater state investment in SUNY, CUNY and its community college system is essential if these institutions are going to thrive in their critical mission of preparing New Yorkers for the next wave of good jobs created by a growing economy,” Pallotta said.
State funding to community colleges does not follow the provisions of the state education law. The law claims the state will pay 40 percent of the operating costs of campuses, but the state is not meeting this obligation.
SUNY and CUNY community college students are paying the majority share of these campuses’ operating costs. Over a decade from 2007-2008 to 2017-2018, SUNY community college students went from paying 39.4 percent of the operating costs to approximately 41.4 percent. At the same time, the state’s contribution decreased from 31.3 percent to 25.4 percent. CUNY Community colleges were similar, where the student share increased from 32.6 percent to 37.2 percent, while the state share decreased from 30.3 percent to 24.9 percent.
The Executive Budget proposes flat funding per full-time equivalent (FTE) student for community colleges, which could mean a rise in tuition costs for students. NYSUT wants to work with the Legislature to provide “hold-harmless” funding to campuses. The state would hold campuses harmless, meaning that despite enrollment numbers, the state will not be able to reduce money to community colleges.
Carl Korn, spokesman for NYSUT, calls for the state to make sustained state investment in community colleges. Korn urges NYSUT to develop relationships with legislatures and work with them to increase the cost of state investment in community campuses. Both Korn and Pallotta focus on the need for investing in community colleges because they are the gateway to four-year institutions and having a college degree.
“Increasing funding to community colleges is essential,” Pallotta said. “These gateway institutions must be able to continue to provide first-rate academic programs and services to students.”