HIGHER EDUCATION COMMISSION
The final report’s narrative and recommendations largely replicate both the strong suits and the weaknesses of the preliminary report. The new report continues to make a valuable contribution to the long-term battle for public higher education by identifying the need for increased public funding. Its recommendations, however, again fall far short of the mark. While calling for a modest increase in full-time faculty, the report also endorses deregulation that would allow CUNY and SUNY to increase tuition more easily, without State legislative approval; a position opposed by the PSC. The recommendation most embraced by Governor Paterson is a call for a low-cost student loan program—a valuable program, but no substitute for public reinvestment in public higher education.
The Commission's report can
be read at
Below you will find testimony and recommendations to the commission made by the PSC during the 2007-2008 academic year.
Hearing -- NYS Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education held a hearing to examine the preliminary recommendations of the Commission on Higher Education on Friday, February 8. Click here for PSC testimony by First Vice President Steve London.
Go To: Higher Ed Highlighted in Governor's State of State Speech | PSC Response to Preliminary Report | PSC Proposal For CUNY Excellence | PSC Testimony by Barbara Bowen | PSC Testimony by Steve London | Analysis of How CUNY Salaries Compare Nationally | Graphs and Charts on How CUNY Compares Nationally | Budget/Legislative Campaign
Governor* Highlights Higher
Reprinted from 1/14/08 'This Week in the PSC"
Without world-class education, we cannot have a world-class economy,” Governor Eliot Spitzer said in his State of the State speech Wednesday [January 9th], making higher education, and particularly public higher education, a prominent theme in his address. PSC President Barbara Bowen and First Vice President Steve London were in attendance as the governor called for the creation of a $4 billion endowment for the SUNY and CUNY systems and endorsed the Commission on Higher Education report’s call for 2,000 additional full-time faculty. Significantly, the governor did not embrace the Commission’s call for increased tuition and differential tuition. Both proposals would reduce access to higher education and have received a frosty reception among Albany lawmakers. The governor’s recognition that strengthening CUNY and SUNY is an indispensable part of revitalizing New York State offers an important opportunity for this year’s budget season. The governor called for “tough choices” amidst a projected budget deficit, and as the Legislature debates the 2008-2009 budget the PSC will be in Albany to remind the Legislature that increased funding for CUNY must be one of the choices New York makes. It’s critical that PSC members’ voices be heard in Albany. Sign up today to join the NYSUT higher education lobby day February 25-26 by contacting Britt Minott in the PSC office.
Higher Education Report:
PSC Statement --
The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC) applauds Governor Spitzer for taking the position that New York State could—and should—have a premier system of public higher education. The preliminary report of the New York State Commission on Higher Education, released today, takes a first, powerful step toward making that vision a reality by identifying the underlying structural problem for public higher education in New York: CUNY and SUNY are underfunded, and have been underfunded for a long time. The chronic underfunding endangers the quality of education New York’s public universities can offer and undermines the state’s capacity to be a leader in research and the creation of knowledge.
At this preliminary stage, however, the recommendations contained in the report fall short of both its vision and its analysis. The PSC, as the union that represents the 20,000 faculty and professional staff at CUNY, looks forward to working with the Commission to address these issues before the final report is issued.
The Commission recommends addressing the structural problem of underfunding which it clearly identifies by asking students to carry much of the financial burden of programmatic innovation through increased tuition and enrollments. What New York State needs, rather, is public investment in public higher education; increased state funding is essential if New York is to remedy decades of underfunding. Shifting the burden onto students will inevitably restrict access to higher education for precisely those students who need it most. This is especially true for CUNY students, most of whom are people of color and come from low-income families, and many of whom are the first in their families to go to college.
The PSC commends the Commission for focusing on the loss of full-time faculty in New York’s public universities, but asks the Commission to reconsider the recommendation for only 2,000 new full-time faculty (for CUNY and SUNY together) over five years. CUNY has 5,000 fewer full-time faculty now than it did in 1975, despite record enrollments. At the rate the Commission is suggesting CUNY add faculty, it would take a quarter of a century to regain our full faculty strength. CUNY needs more than incremental increases; CUNY needs a historic reinvestment to reverse the effects of the historic disinvestment and to be part of a premier public higher education system.
The Commission report is silent on one of the key factors in creating a top-quality public university system. The report acknowledges that competitive salaries are essential in recruiting the high-caliber faculty our universities need. But CUNY salaries are currently far from competitive. To recruit—and retain—faculty, New York must invest in making competitive compensation at CUNY a priority. CUNY salaries have lost between 27% and 51% of their value since 1971; professors at Rutgers now make 24% more than their peers at CUNY, and at the University of Connecticut, they make 23% more. Uncompetitive compensation has led to a recruitment and retention crisis at CUNY. Just as CUNY is seeking to hire significant numbers of new faculty, its salaries have reached a crisis point. Students suffer and research opportunities are lost when CUNY cannot recruit and retain the faculty it needs.
The PSC thanks the Commission on Higher Education for its work and looks forward to continuing discussion with the Commission as it moves from this preliminary report towards its final report in June 2008.
To reverse the three decades of under funding of the City University of New York and provide the resources necessary to make CUNY one of the nation’s great universities, substantial new investments are needed over the next five years to:
This fall CUNY enrolled 232,114 students—it’s the largest student body at any time in the last 35 years. However, the University now has only 6,541 full-time faculty including librarians and counselors, or 4,512 less than in 1972. To put it another way, CUNY has approximately 1 full-time faculty member for every 35 students enrolled today compared to 1 for every 21 students enrolled in 1972.
The PSC strongly supports CUNY’s hiring target of 2,300 net new full-time faculty over the next four years so that 70% of the instructional workload can be covered by full-time faculty. This will not completely close the gap – especially if enrollments rise more than expected – but it will be a major step forward. [For analysis of how CUNY salaries stack up nationally, click here.]
Salaries for full-time faculty and staff at CUNY have lost between 27% and 51% of their value since 1971. At a time when the cost of living in New York City is making it increasingly difficult for middle-class employees to stay and raise a family here, CUNY is finding it harder to retain faculty at all levels. Though the University is still able to recruit young professors because of its reputation as an exciting place to work, the University is on the verge of becoming non-competitive nationally because of depressed salaries and substandard working conditions.
Restoring the competitiveness of faculty compensation and benefits is critical if CUNY is to contribute to the broad research and development agenda as well as train large numbers of new public school teachers—to name but two specific goals envisioned in the Governor’s charge to the Commission. Restoration of salaries and conditions to competitive levels is also essential if CUNY is to replace the generation of senior faculty now nearing retirement.
TESTIMONY OF THE PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS/CUNY TO THE NEW YORK STATE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMISSION
December 2, 2007
Delivered by Dr. Barbara Bowen, President
Good afternoon, Chairperson Rawlings, members of the Committee and higher education colleagues. On behalf of the 20,000 faculty and staff represented by Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, I thank you for this opportunity to speak. I would be remiss, however, if I did not add that I have been flooded with disappointed calls and emails from CUNY faculty who had signed up to testify today and have learned that they cannot speak at this hearing. We all understand that schedules change, but several professors had made extraordinary efforts to be able to appear today, rescheduling department meetings, sessions with their doctoral students and other essential work. I would like to ask you to make a special effort, as I know you will, to give their comments a strong hearing when you receive them.
I would also like to ask for an opportunity to testify before you again, once the report is released. The PSC’s testimony today will necessarily be proleptic, anticipating your report and offering our own proposal of what is needed to fulfill Governor Spitzer’s bold vision of raising higher education in New York State to a level of national and international preeminence.
The PSC commends Governor Spitzer on his leadership in forming a commission on higher education and thanks you, Commission members, for the many hours of work you have donated to this project. The PSC shares Governor Spitzer’s belief that New York State should have—and could have—one of the finest systems of higher education in the country. Everything about New York argues for academic preeminence: New York’s size, its history, its economic, cultural and intellectual influence, and above all, the resource of an extraordinary population, energized by successive waves of immigrants whose labor has built this state and sustains this city. Whether New York State continues to occupy such a prominent national and international position, however, depends to a significant degree on the state’s ability to create a highly educated population and to be at the forefront of producing research and new knowledge.
Public Higher Education
The key to this future is public higher education. New York’s two great public university systems are the backbone of higher education in the state, graduating 44% of the state’s degree-recipients. In New York City, CUNY occupies an even more central place: 46% of all college students in the city are students at CUNY. For hundreds of thousands of families in New York State, college means public college.
Public higher education should be also at the center of the Commission’s agenda because the Commission is likely to make a proposal that involves spending public money. The premise behind public higher education is that it is a public good: that the entire state benefits—in economic, civic, intellectual and cultural terms—when the state has a highly educated population and when the state is a center of research and scholarship.
But the recent history of support for public higher education in New York State means that a commission on higher education in this state faces a special challenge. The Commission confronts more than twenty years of deep underfunding of public higher education, a level of budget cuts that is disproportionate both to the cuts faced by other public institutions and to the cuts suffered by peer institutions nationwide. There is no easy way to move past this history: both CUNY and SUNY have been systematically starved of funds for more than two decades, and CUNY for longer than that. Not until the 2005-06 budget did the state begin to turn this pattern around. This history explains why a commission was so urgently needed and why all of us who live with that underfunding every day look to you for bold thinking.
Double Assault on CUNY Funding
While both SUNY and CUNY have suffered from underfunding by New York State, the impoverishment of CUNY has been particularly acute because CUNY has endured two periods during which a withdrawal of public funding hollowed out the institution from within. The first was the New York City fiscal crisis of 1975-76, which came on the heels of a major growth in enrollment following the introduction of CUNY’s landmark policy of Open Admissions. At a moment of unprecedented enrollment, thousands of full-time faculty were dismissed, a tradition of more than a century of free tuition was broken, faculty salaries stagnated, and the institution suffered.
CUNY had not been allowed to recover from that assault when the second crisis hit, starting more slowly with the statewide recession in the 1980s, but lasting longer—throughout the 1990s until the early years of this decade. The double blow of fiscal crisis followed by repeated State budget cuts meant that CUNY could not get off its knees. In essence, CUNY has never been allowed to recover from the 1975 fiscal crisis. The ranks of full-time faculty at CUNY were not replenished, thousands of underpaid part-timers were brought in to fill the gap, buildings fell into disrepair, student tuition climbed—reaching nearly the highest levels in the nation for community colleges—and faculty salaries and working conditions fell to non-competitive levels.
The amazing part about this story is that the institution survived despite what I would call not negligence, but rather planned poverty. How that history is bound up with the changing demographics of CUNY’s student population, with race, and with the neo-liberal agenda of starving the public sphere is a question I am sure the Commission has considered. What I want to point out here is that during these lean years students continued to graduate from CUNY and go on to do astonishing work in medicine, education, finance, science and the arts; faculty continued to produce research that transformed their academic fields; and the city and state continued to be served. CUNY survived for three reasons: because it shifted costs onto students in the form of increased tuition and fees, because it relied for the majority of its teaching on underpaid adjuncts, and because it could count on the dedication of thousands of faculty and staff who continued to work here under often appalling conditions. We stayed at CUNY because we believed in its mission. Few universities could sustain the kind of assault CUNY has withstood and still boast world-class faculty, people who could teach anywhere they chose. The secret is that CUNY is not like other universities; it has always—until the last five years—been able to count of attracting and retaining exceptional faculty because it is in New York City and because some of the best minds in their generation were drawn to its mission.
A Proposal to Renew the City University
But a university held together by cheap labor, overburdened students, and faculty stretched to the breaking point is not a university that will lead a resurgence in this new century and not one that will adequately serve the next generation of students. The PSC calls on the Commission to offer the only real solution: CUNY must be fully funded. Our proposal is for a bold and unapologetic reinvestment of public money in CUNY. Given CUNY’s centrality to New York City and its essential role in the economic growth of the State, the Commission’s plan for a world-class higher education system must include full funding of CUNY. Decades of damage cannot be undone by business-as-usual marginal increases, and losses on the magnitude of those suffered by CUNY cannot be recouped by imposing higher costs on our students.
CUNY’s full complement of full-time faculty must be restored; buildings must be repaired, libraries must be restocked; physical conditions must improve; and these improvements must be made through public investment, not by further shifting costs to our students. We ask the Commission to respond to the Governor’s request for innovative thought by recommending an idea that is as bold today as the idea of CUNY itself was at its founding in 1847: a fully funded public urban university. “Public” in this state has for too long been synonymous with “poor.” Last year’s courageous infusion of funds for K-12 education showed that that equation can be broken; it’s time for an equally transformative infusion of funds for the public universities. The simple question the Commission faces is whether New York wants our state’s public universities to be great. If the answer is yes, there is only one course to take: fund them adequately. Greatness is not achieved by half-measures and timid solutions. A great university costs money, and it’s worth it.
I have attached to my written testimony a summary of the PSC’s proposal to renew City University of New York. Our proposal calls for the state to reach full funding of CUNY over a period of five years, and to achieve this without transferring more of the cost of public education to our students. Tuition increases, either gradual or sudden, either across-the-board or through “differential” tuition, are not the solution. Nor is the solution fewer regulations; it is more funding. The “CUNY Compact” model, which essentially depends on increased revenue from tuition and enrollment to fund much programmatic improvement, is both fiscally and ethically unsound. The bare fact is that increasing tuition and cramming more people into our already overstuffed classrooms will never be enough to cover a deficit that was thirty years in the making.
The Need for Nationally Competitive Salaries
The PSC proposal also raises an issue that is normally confined to discussions of collective bargaining, but one that is so important to CUNY’s future that it must be included in any blueprint for the university’s future. Through years of “pattern-bargaining,” CUNY salaries have fallen to levels that threaten to make the university unable to recruit and retain the top-notch faculty it needs. It is more than ironic that just at the moment CUNY has embarked on a faculty recruitment campaign, academic departments in every college of the university are finding that are salaries are not competitive. [For analysis of how CUNY salaries stack up nationally, click here.] It is essential that the recruitment continue and that CUNY succeed in attracting the best scholars of this generation just as CUNY did in the 1960s and 1970s. There are young faculty and senior scholars all over this country who want to come to CUNY and stay at CUNY, but they are hampered by salaries that in some cases make it impossible to live in New York, especially with a family. If there were time, I could fill the rest of the afternoon with data about faculty we have lost because of low salaries, people who in almost every case have said their first choice was to be at CUNY but that the low salaries and lack of other basic supports for academic life held them back.
CUNY’s top salary for a full-professor, which is now $102,235 would be $161,912 if it had merely kept up with inflation since the early 1970s, when many of the current generation of faculty were hired. The bottom step for an assistant professor is currently $38,801—several thousand dollars behind the bottom step for New York City elementary school teachers—would now be $76,776. Other salary steps reveal a similar pattern of losses of up to 51% in real-dollar value.
Another way to make the comparison is in relation to comparable institutions. At CUNY’s senior colleges, the average salary for a full professor is $101,000; at the community colleges it is $94,000. These averages include Distinguished Professors, who receive additional enhancements, and a small contingent of professors who have received negotiated salaries over scale. Even so, CUNY’s averages do not compare with those at peer institutions, such as the University of Connecticut or Rutgers or the University of Maryland. A dramatic directive from the Commission to restore competitiveness to CUNY salaries must be part of any realistic plan for renewal of higher education in this state. And the restoration must encompass all faculty and staff; it cannot be skin-deep or limited to a few academic “stars.” A century ago Thorsten Veblen in his book on higher education made the distinction between the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of prestige. Maybe it’s possible to buy prestige with a thin layer of well-compensated faculty, but that approach will not produce knowledge. Knowledge takes deep, collaborative work spread across an entire community of teachers and scholars.
A Vision for New York
A Commission presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to propose a new vision. New York may not have this chance again for twenty or thirty years. This is not the time to retreat into received wisdom and tired ideas. Call for what CUNY really needs in order to emerge as a university for the new century. Call for full funding and allow CUNY to be the university it could be.
PSC Testimony to the New York State Assembly Committee on Higher Education
Hearings on the New York State Commission on Higher Education Preliminary Report
Steve London, PSC First
Good morning Chairperson Glick and members of the Committee on Higher Education.
I want to make a few brief remarks on the New York State Commission on Higher Education’s recommendations for financing Senior and Community Colleges.
Let me begin by saying that the Commission says what we all know to be true; CUNY and SUNY are terribly under-financed by the state with public dollars. The Commission concludes, “This erosion of resources has led to a loss of full-time faculty, higher student-faculty ratios, and diminished academic and student support services.”
The Commission draws the right conclusion from its analysis of the overriding problem of under-funding of CUNY and SUNY, “Ongoing long-term investment, rather than one-time infusions of substantial dollars, is the most prudent answer to a resource problem that has plagued both CUNY and SUNY for too long.”
The Commission’s financing strategy to achieve this long-term investment, however, is problematic in several ways:
CUNY’s Real Need
In 1975, CUNY had 11,500 full-time faculty with a student population roughly equivalent to current levels. Today, CUNY has approximately 6,600 full-time faculty. The current average full-time faculty to student ratio at CUNY is 1:36. In 1975, it was approximately 1:20. How much would it cost to simply recover the 5,000 lost faculty? With a conservative estimate of an average of $80,000 per new faculty member, it would cost a minimum of $400,000,000 additional operating dollars. While personnel costs are the bulk of operating costs, there would be additional programmatic dollars needed. For illustrative purposes, let’s say CUNY needs an additional $450,000,000 for programmatic investment.
The Compact Concept
The Compact concept contained in the report commits the state to funding mandatory cost increases and 20% of future investment programs. Tuition, enrollment increases, “efficiencies,” and philanthropy would fund the remaining programmatic investments. The Commission Report says that tuition increases in this funding strategy would be kept to modest amounts, about 2.5% to 4% per year. However, such a promise cannot be kept if the real need of CUNY is to be met in the foreseeable future.
The basic problem with this funding strategy is that tuition would have to increase substantially more than 4% per year to meet the real needs of the university if the university is to achieve a reasonable level of funding within the next five years.
If the state were to assume the Commission’s called-for 20% of the needed $450 million in the above illustration, that would leave $360 million to be funded through the other means. Philanthropy may offset some of this additional investment, but even if substantial amounts were raised in the next five years, the interest and dividend contribution from this revenue stream to annual operating costs will be minimal. Similarly, savings from “efficiencies” will contribute a minimal amount to future operating costs since CUNY has been operating in a lean mode for years and “efficiencies” often translate into service cuts. That leaves the bulk of the additional investment dollars to be raised from tuition.
In FY 2008, CUNY projects it will receive $817 million in tuition dollars. If this revenue stream were to be increased from tuition increases at the rate of 3% per year over 5 years, it would generate an additional $175 million by the fifth year. This would fall very far short of the needed investment dollars to make CUNY into a great university.
We should not kid ourselves. If the Compact funding concept is adopted as outlined in the Commission Report, tuition costs will have to increase significantly if we are to make the necessary investments in CUNY and SUNY.
Others will testify about how CUNY students are already overburdened by current tuition levels and how the PELL and TAP programs have significant holes that lead many of our students to drop or stop out.
Therefore, we believe the state needs to make a commitment to fund the needed new programmatic investments primarily with public dollars and not through tuition increases.
Community College Funding
The Commission takes note that current state law requires the state to pay 40%, counties to pay 26% and the balance of 33% to be paid by students through tuition for “full opportunity” colleges. “[T]he State [is obligated] to fund ‘up to’ 40% ...of the operational budget, while the student continued to provide 33%...and the county share was reduced to 26.7%.” (P.49) The Commission notes New York state and counties have rarely met this commitment resulting in community college tuition and fees that are much higher than national averages.
The Commission then recommends that the state meet the full 66.7% of the state and county obligation up front and then bill the counties for their mandated share.
What would this mean for CUNY’s community colleges? First, let’s look at the current distribution of funding revenues. In the 2007/2008 fiscal year, state support for CUNY’s community colleges constitutes 30% of funding. Student tuition is almost 33% and local support is at 37%.
What if the state were to increase FTE base aid support to meet the 40% target. How much would that increase be for next year’s budget?
If we were to hold tuition and local assistance constant and assume CUNY’s 1.3% projected increase in enrollment at the community colleges for next year, state FTE community college base aid in FY 2009 would add $1,500 above the current $2,675 funding level to meet the 40% target. That would mean an additional infusion of almost $100 million from the state for CUNY’s community colleges.
Of course, this analysis assumes that there would be no reduction in the amount of local support for community colleges and current tuition remains constant. Indeed, increasing local support would be matched by ever greater state funding though the percentage of the whole would remain constant.
This funding recommendation is percentage-based and ultimately funding depends on the size of the pie with the three moving parts being tuition, local and state aid. In the above hypothetical, tuition was kept constant and would have fallen to about 28% of the projected total with the addition of new state dollars.
Would a funding model based on percentages require tuition hikes so that tuition always accounted for 33% of funding? It is not clear from the Commission’s recommendations. So, there needs to be more specificity in the final report.
We make two recommendations concerning this funding model:
1) There needs to be, at the very least, a maintenance of effort provision for local support to assure that any additional state dollars not be used to supplant the local sponsor’s commitment.
2) The Commission points out, New York State “community college average tuition and fees are well above the national average, and highest among the peer states identified.” (P. 49) Therefore, the percentage of funding from tuition should be reduced below the current one-third amount and local and state percentages should be increased.