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on CUNY Budget
Joint Legislative Hearing, 2/12/02
Higher Education Committee, 1/17/02
OF THE PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS
LEGISLATIVE HEARING: HIGHER EDUCATION
by Barbara Bowen, President
Good morning, Assemblyman
Farrell, distinguished Legislators, fellow unionists and supporters of public
higher education. I am honored to
have the opportunity to speak to you today about the urgent needs of the City
University of New York. I speak on
behalf of the 20,000 faculty and professional staff I represent as President of
the Professional Staff Congress; I’m delighted to be joined by our Vice
President, Professor Steven London, and our Secretary and Legislative Director,
Professor Cecelia McCall. They will
join me in answering your questions.
Everyone knows that this
is not an ordinary budget year. When
the academic year began, in the other
world that was early September, no one foresaw that the state’s already
declining revenues would be strained to the breaking point by the devastation of
September 11th. No one imagined that last year’s bare-bones budget would
set the terms for a future budget; my sense is that both the Executive and the
Legislative branches would like to have proposed increases for higher education.
Higher education had begun to emerge as a priority for both voters and
legislators: the 2001-02 Executive Budget called for modest increases for CUNY,
and many of you supported additional funds to restore our university.
The signs were there that the decades-long decline in funding for public
higher education was about to end; New York was poised to emerge from its years
of lagging behind the rest of the nation in support for public universities. But
the fiscal script, as we all know, has been rewritten.
This year’s Executive Budget repeats the bare-bones budget for CUNY—it
is, in effect, a budget cut. There
is no money to cover the 2-3% increased costs of inflation, no money to repair
last year’s cuts, and no money to support the rebuilding of the University we
I am here today, with
20,000 politically engaged members at my back, to explain why investment in CUNY
must continue, even in these straitened times.
I am here to show why you as legislators must take the lead in calling
for use of the state’s precious reserves for investment at CUNY.
The PSC speaks in strong solidarity with my colleagues from NYSUT and UUP;
we are fully behind their requests for funding for the state university system
and the community colleges. But I
want to suggest that there is a particular crisis at CUNY and a particular
contribution CUNY makes to New York.
These two factors—CUNY’s crisis and its contribution—justify the
leap of courage it will take to add funding this year.
Let me start with the
crisis. CUNY has now reached the point where the majority of its courses are
taught by part-time faculty. Many
other colleges, in our state and elsewhere, suffer from over-reliance on
part-time faculty, but at CUNY the situation is acute.
Entire departments run primarily on part-time labor; some have one or two
full-time faculty and an army of people who teach part-time.
No matter how good the part-timers are—and many of them are fabulous
teachers and colleagues—it is not
educationally sound to run a university on part-time labor.
Imagine how you would feel if you had a part-time lawyer, or a part-time
doctor who had to run to his next job and had no office in which to meet you, no
time for consultation, and a stethoscope shared with 20 other part-time doctors.
Would you allow your children to attend a public school in which most of
the teachers were contingent workers, rushing from one school to another, not
sure if they would have a job from one month to the next?
What kind of education do you think they would be able to provide?
The amazing thing is that
our part-time faculty have been able to do so much for so long.
During the last two decades, as the funding for CUNY has declined, the
Administration has been able to paper over the large hole in our budget by
replacing a full-time faculty with an underpaid part-time one, but now the hole
is gaping. The critical point was
reached when the norm became part-timers rather than full-timers as the teaching
faculty. Take a look how the
percentage of instruction by full-time faculty has fallen in just the last ten
years. At the senior colleges, it
has dropped from 62% in 1990 to 51% now, and at the community colleges from an
already unacceptable figure of 54% to crisis proportions at 44% by the
decade’s end. Students’ primary
experience at the City University is now with underpaid part-timers, hired
because they saved the University money, and who are often unavailable to
consult students outside of class or write them a recommendation or even be
found the next semester. I have
nothing but admiration for my part-time colleagues; this
is a structural, not an individual crisis.
Let me show you the numbers. Fully staffed in 1975, the University
employed 11,300 full-time faculty. Now,
the number of faculty is 5,700. That’s
a loss of half, even though the student numbers have held relatively constant.
A few gains have been made in recent years, but the number is still down
by a thousand in the last decade. Unfortunately,
CUNY can’t wait until New York’s budget recovers.
You reach a point when you no longer have a university.
And that’s the point we are very fast approaching. The PSC calls on you
to add funding this year for 450 of the 5,000 faculty we need and begin to
achieve the ratio of 70% full-time to 30% part time called for in CUNY’s own
Master Plan. The cost is 34 million
The crisis for
professional staff is also as acute. From
1988 to 2000, the number of Higher Education Officers—the people who
administer programs, register students, program computers and counsel about
financial aid—dropped by 15%. The
University has attempted to solve this crisis not so much with part-timers, but
by piling more work on the Higher Education Officers who remain.
One of my own colleagues, a counselor, took on the work of the three
people who retired from her office, working nights and weekends to answer
students’ questions. Within a few
months, she had had a heart attack—but that didn’t stop her from advising
students from her hospital bed and returning to work as soon as she could.
Three years later, there has still been no one hired to assist her.
How well are students being served when the understaffing is this
extreme? At a certain point, the
commitment to student services becomes a sham.
We need to create 140 new Higher Education Officer positions this year,
at a cost of 8.4 million dollars.
technical staff, too, its laboratory and computer technicians, has been eroded
by budget losses. As CUNY seeks to
upgrade technological resources and make more efficient use of computer systems,
it is vital that there be trained staff to do the work.
Otherwise, the investment in infrastructure is wasted.
This year, CUNY needs funding to add 120 new Laboratory Technicians.
We have identified a few
other pressing needs, which are explained in the longer document provided to
you. Many of our members will be visiting your offices, both in
your districts and here in Albany, to speak directly to you about the ones that
affect them most. I’d like to use
my remaining time to reflect on our needs as a whole and suggest why the crisis
at CUNY has occurred and why it must be solved.
If you look at the other
budget priorities the PSC has outlined, you will find things that are assumed to
be basic at almost all other universities.
We call for full funding for some of the programs that are distinctive at
CUNY, such as SEEK and the Centers for Worker Education, but much of what we are
seeking is embarrassingly basic. CUNY
is almost the only research institution in the country that does not provide
tuition relief for doctoral students who are employed by the university.
I am happy to say that SUNY receives full funding for this purpose, but
CUNY receives nothing. This is an
inequity that must be resolved. Despite
having several doctoral programs that rank in the top ten nationwide, CUNY will
soon find itself unable to compete for the best graduate students.
Not being able to attract graduate students means not being able to
attract top-level faculty, many of whom come primarily because of the doctoral
students they can teach. With a small expenditure, this problem can be solved.
Other relatively modest amounts would supply funding for the current
part-time faculty to hold office hours for students; even if CUNY adds 450 new
full-time faculty this year, there will still be thousands of part-timers who
receive no money for office hours and tens of thousands of students underserved.
Put these needs together with the lack of funding for such routine items
as travel to professional meetings or support for research costs, and you get a
picture of a university dangerously hampered in its work.
There’s a magic about CUNY—few people who work there long can resist
the beauty of its diverse, determined student body. But after a while, a university without funds for basic needs
is no longer a real university.
More than twenty years of
declining support have brought us to this point. State funding has dropped
steadily since 1990, and city funding has declined at nearly as fast a rate. The
state has attempted to bridge the gap with tuition, which now covers 37% of
CUNY’s operating budget, but without public investment, the deficit has
continued to grow. According to the Institute for Fiscal Policy, CUNY ranks
second from the bottom in the list of state funding priorities. Overall New York
State funding to public higher education is low, but the withdrawal of funds
from CUNY is especially sharp. The Chronicle
of Higher Education reported that total New York funding for public higher
education increased by 2.7% in 2000-2001, which included much-needed funds for
SUNY’s hospitals. But state
support for CUNY rose only 0.8%. Funding
at that rate places CUNY 48th among the 50 states’ university
The investment New York has
made—and many of you have been leaders in this area—has been in direct
assistance to students. The PSC is
a strong supporter of TAP, and we call for an immediate repeal of the punitive
plan to withhold the last third of students’ TAP funding. But valuable as
TAP is, it is not a substitute for investment in the University itself.
Portions of TAP funding have gone to New York’s private colleges in the
form of tuition support, and meanwhile the public funding base for the state’s
universities has eroded. The PSC
asks you to restore TAP funding and continue to support all students in the
state who seek higher education. But
we also ask you to recognize that for such support to be meaningful, students
must have strong public universities in which to study. It’s self-defeating to
provide support to attend college but then pull the rug out from under the
colleges most students attend. It’s
time to re-examine how New York allocates support to higher education; the
formula of the last two decades hasn’t worked.
No dollars have a greater multiplier effect than those invested directly
in public colleges and universities; direct investment in CUNY is the strongest
gesture of confidence in the state’s future you can make.
I want to close by
reflecting on the particular contribution CUNY makes to the life of New York.
Too much has already been written about the greatness of New York that
was revealed by September 11th, but there are some things that have
not been noticed. One is that the
habit of cooperation among working people, across supposed barriers of ethnicity
and race, is not new. The most
powerful engine of integration in New York City is the public schools and
colleges, and I would say especially the colleges, because there the mix of ages
and backgrounds is even more intense. It
is no accident that thousands of New Yorkers, immigrants and native-born, were
able to rise together to the challenge of an event that shook the foundations of
their thought. Daily in our
classrooms students learn to expose themselves to hard ideas, to have the
courage to face tough challenges in a public setting. In the years before the Taliban, I had a Russian and an
Afghan student working side by side in my classroom at Queens; the two young men
had fought on opposite sides in the war between their two countries.
But the real story of CUNY is about the future. New York, as we have been forced to remember, is not just about stockbrokers and dot.com wizards; it’s also about cooks and court stenographers and carpenters and firefighters and medical technicians. And in the future it’s going to be about people flexible enough to move from one field of work to another. Where will these people come from? Not out of state and not from expensive private colleges. They will come from the City’s university. There is no rebuilding without investing in people, no rebuilding New York without rebuilding CUNY.
PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS/CUNY
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE
The Honorable Edward Sullivan, Chair
January 17, 2002
Good morning, Assemblyman Sullivan, distinguished
legislators and staff members, fellow unionists and New Yorkers. I am delighted
to have this opportunity to speak about the urgent funding needs of the City
University, and especially grateful to Assemblyman Sullivan.
We are still a new leadership of the PSC, but it is already clear to us
what a champion we have in Ed Sullivan. He
has been a voice of both reason and passion, a fierce advocate of public higher
education, throughout his legislative career.
The officers and members of the Professional Staff Congress are proud to
consider him a colleague, a fighter and a friend.
We speak today in solidarity with the other higher education leaders on this
panel: New York, as you have heard, still lags shamefully behind in funding for
public higher education, and there is a pressing need at each of our
institutions. It is simply not acceptable, even in times of limited
funding, for New York to rank 47th among the states in increases to higher
education over the last ten years. As
a state whose economy is fueled by the knowledge industries, New York ought to
be a leader in investment in higher education.
A college degree is no longer a luxury; it is the minimum credential for
success in almost any of New York’s growing employment fields.
The Professional Staff Congress begins by calling on the Legislature to
invest wisely in the future of the state, and no investment pays bigger
dividends than higher education. Dollars
invested in higher education have the greatest multiplier effect of any form of
public spending: they create the biggest return in the form of increases to the
tax base of the state. And that’s
only one, rather crude way of measuring education’s importance: the real
return on investments in higher education is much larger, almost incalculable.
There can be no price tag put on the value of enlarging one’s life in
the way higher education makes possible. The
strength of this state, as the terrible events of September 11th made clear, is
its people, and there is no better way to invest in the people’s future than
by supporting higher education.
We call on the Governor and the Legislature, then, to look to the future
as they develop this year’s budget. Nothing
signals faith in the future more than investment in higher education, and a
commitment to our collective future has never been more needed than now.
All of public higher education in New York needs an infusion of funds, but I
want to concentrate on the sharp needs at the City University.
Our needs have a particular urgency this year, for two reasons: first,
the importance of a public urban university was painfully demonstrated by the
devastation of September 11th; and second, CUNY has been a singular target of
underfunding in the last decade, and that underfunding must be reversed.
I want to use most of my time to specify our funding needs, but first
I’d like to say a word about what September 11th revealed
about New York City’s public university.
CUNY is part of the fabric of the city; when the city was under attack, CUNY was
under attack. And when the city
stood together, showing that it is the diversity and density of a great urban
population that defines a city’s strength, CUNY was part of that resurgence. On the day of the attack itself, CUNY faculty and staff
offered leadership and support to the 200,000 students at our University.
The faculty and staff at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, only
three blocks away from the World Trade Center, successfully evacuated the entire
student body that terrible morning, and then stayed with their students to
assist them in traveling home. To
take just one example: part-time faculty member Salar Abdoh, who was teaching an
English class at Fiterman Hall, a building that suffered irreparable damage,
found himself cradling the head of one of his students as she reacted in shock
to the collapse of the Towers. “I
just put her head on my shoulder so she wouldn’t see any more,” he said.
With countless gestures like this, the CUNY faculty and staff nearest to
the tragedy reacted in ways that were deeply human, but also inflected by years
of dedication to a profession that is about learning, communicating, supporting
others as they struggle with difficult ideas.
Above all, what PSC members did in response to the attacks was go back to work.
The next day, we were there at our colleges, many of us staying on even
where classes had to be canceled, offering opportunities for our students to
mourn and react. In the weeks since
September 11th, CUNY faculty and staff have risen to the difficult occasion in
myriad ways, some visible, some not. And at CUNY, of course, we are in a unique position: as the
most diverse university in the country, CUNY bears a special responsibility for
fostering openness and rejection of racism.
It has been one of the union’s major campaigns since September 11th to
create an atmosphere of zero tolerance for bias attacks on students of Arabic
descent or on any students—to make CUNY a model of a diverse community in a
difficult time. I think we have
succeeded: Muslim students at several CUNY colleges report that they feel more
supported now than before because of the strenuous efforts of the faculty and
staff to create an atmosphere of openness.
And we’ve just learned that the Indian and Pakistani student clubs at
Hunter College have merged to show their commitment to working cooperatively
despite the tensions between their home countries.
As New York City and State begin the rebuilding after September 11th, one thing
is clear: we will need an educated citizenry, a people prepared for the multiple
challenges offered by a changing economy. We
need a people broadly educated, not just narrowly trained, flexible enough to
find their places in the new city and state economies. The City University is
essential to that effort. Rebuilding
New York means rebuilding CUNY. There
are years of lost ground to make up, because CUNY has been systematically
stripped of funding over the past two decades.
But it’s not too late to begin the process of reinvestment, starting
with the current budget.
We need investment in seven major areas. The
first three were outlined by Alan Lubin, and they are also priorities at CUNY:
increases in the operating budget; restoration of full-time faculty;
improvements in the base aid to community colleges to the level of $225 per
full-time-equivalent student. Our needs here are clear and pressing.
There are four other areas I would
like to highlight, and these are of special importance at CUNY:
restoration of a full-time/part-time faculty ratio of 70% to 30%;
restoration of full-time professional staff, as well as faculty; enhancement of technology in the
classroom; and graduate student tuition.
While funding of public higher education throughout New York lags behind
national levels, funding for CUNY is in a unique crisis.
The latest tables published by the Chronicle
of Higher Education show New York’s overall funding for public higher
education increasing by 2.7% in 2000-2001, but CUNY’s funding rising only
0.8%. While the state’s other institutions of higher education
received far less support than they need, CUNY received the lowest level of
funding in the state. The PSC’s
own analysis suggests that our funding level may be even lower, but the Chronicle’s report alone would place CUNY’s funding third from
the bottom among the 50 states.
We see the cost of that underfunding in the collapse of our numbers of full-time
faculty. CUNY has gone from over 11,000 full-time faculty to about
5,500 in the space of 25 years. In
the last decade alone 1,000 full-time faculty have been lost. The single most
important measure of the quality of a university is its faculty, and the decline
in full‑time faculty is the scandal at the center of CUNY. There is no
time now simply to add a few more positions or even to rely on selected flagship
programs as a source of renewal. The
entire faculty and professional staff, throughout the University, must be
restored to levels appropriate for a research university.
The damage to our students is immense. Consider
the record of the last decade on the percentage of courses taught by
full‑time faculty. The number
at the senior colleges fell from 63% in 1990 to 51%, and at the community
colleges from 54% to only 44% in 1999. Nearly half of CUNY’s courses are
taught by people who are paid meager part‑time wages, who receive no
support for research, who are not paid or required to spend time with students
in office hours. This is no way to
run a serious university. Because of their commitment to the idea of CUNY and to the
students it serves, dedicated people accept intolerable wages and do their best
for our students. Other states have
recognized that part-time instructors must be paid on a basis of parity with
full-timers; it is time for New York to do the same. We cannot continue to shortchange our students by depriving
them of the consultations with faculty they need.
But the crisis in full-time faculty needs to be solved.
We are nowhere near the University’s stated goal of 70% of instruction
by full‑timers, and CUNY now risks losing academic accreditation in
several areas because the ratio of full‑time to part‑time
instructors is so low. The
PSC offers a reasonable plan for reaching the 70/30 ratio within three years,
and we set this year’s target at 350 for the senior colleges, and a further
108 positions in Teacher Education. This
figure is substantially higher than the University’s proposal for new lines
and higher than the current rate of replacement.
The amount needed is $34.4 million. CUNY has now fallen below the
Regents’ minimum mandated level for full-time staffing of Teacher Education
courses. If we are to avoid being
forced to scale back on the training of teachers New York urgently needs, there
must be immediate funding in this field.
second major area of need for CUNY is replenishment of the professional staff.
Some of the most important work of the University is conducted by the
staff—the lab technicians who prepare experiments for science courses, the
financial aid counselors who guide students in being able to afford college
tuition, the registrars and program directors and computer programmers and
high-level technicians without whom the University would not function.
Hundreds of professionals in these positions have been lost as CUNY has
lacked the funds to replace those who leave or hire those needed for new areas.
I know one financial aid counselor who has taken on the work previously
done by four people, working literally night and day with adult students seeking
a college degree. When overwork contributed to a heart attack, she didn’t
falter in her dedication. Students
received calls from her hospital room and she continued counseling over the
phone until she was well. No
university, no matter how important its mission, should ask that of its staff. CUNY cannot withstand another year of scraping by on the
goodwill of people like this counselor; ultimately, it is our students who
University needs $8.4 million in this budget for instructional staff.
Teaching and learning also depend on physical facilities.
While in the past teaching required little more in the way of facilities
than a classroom and a chalkboard, instruction today is quickly becoming
dependent on technology. CUNY has
fallen at least a decade behind in its classroom technology.
At other universities, “smart classrooms” are routine; all classes
have access to the Internet and related technology.
At CUNY such equipment is rare. The
time has passed when technology was a luxury or a gimmick, or even restricted to
certain fields: today all careers demand technological fluency.
We ensure our students’ failure from the start if we do not offer them
technological sophistication. The
PSC is calling for investment in technical support for classrooms, laboratories
and studios; and for the technologically-trained staff to manage them.
The cost for this investment is $3.6 million.
The final item I would like to highlight is unique to CUNY.
The City University is virtually alone among Ph.D.-granting institutions
in not waiving tuition for doctoral students who teach or work in labs for the
University. At almost all other
doctoral institutions, graduate students are not expected to use the small
amount they earn from the university to pay the same university for tuition.
I am happy to say that SUNY does receive support for these costs and SUNY
doctoral students do receive tuition waivers.
A similar investment is urgently needed at CUNY.
Fully a third of CUNY’s doctoral programs rank in the top third
nationally; several, such as Music, English, Women’s Studies and Sociology,
are among the nation’s top 20. But
these rankings are imperiled by our continuing inability to offer what is
standard at other universities. I
know of several students for whom CUNY’s doctoral program in English was their
first choice because of the quality of its faculty, but who reluctantly chose to
go elsewhere when they were offered stipends of $12,000 to $20,000 and free
tuition. One of the University’s strongest assets is rapidly being
undermined—all for the want of the relatively modest sum necessary for
graduate tuition waivers. The sum of $6.7 million would fund this need and enhance CUNY’s
competitiveness not only for students but also for the highly credentialed
faculty who are drawn by the chance of teaching them.
There are many other needs in CUNY’s budget, some of which would be answered
by increased funding in the areas detailed by my colleagues: additions to the
operating budget, new full-time faculty lines, community college base aid at
$225. To these must be added targeted funding to SEEK, the Worker
Education programs, childcare and disability services.
The choice is before you: rise to the moment and appropriate the funds to
restore the University’s health or allow one of New York’s signature
institutions to decline beyond repair. You
have a chance to rebuild an institution that has historically ensured the life
chances of millions of New Yorkers and done much to enable the integration of
generation after generation of new immigrants into the life of the state.
Each year, CUNY graduates, most of whom would not have gone to college
without CUNY, add billions of dollars to the tax base of New York.
The people of New York will benefit for generations to come if you accept
our proposals and chart a new direction for CUNY.
Across the nation, state governments are realizing the wisdom of
investing in higher education and upgrading their university systems.
The PSC’s new leadership came into office on a groundswell of hundreds
of faculty and staff who shared our bold vision of renewal. We ask of you a vision equally bold; take this last chance to
restore our great university. Don’t
inflict damage that it would take generations to repair; rebuild New York by
Delivered by Dr. Cecelia McCall, Secretary, PSC/CUNY