Cuomo’s Silence Means CUNY Budget Battle Continues

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo

As Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to be under fire for proposed budget cuts to the City University of New York (CUNY) in his Fiscal Year 2017 executive spending plan, student leaders and teachers are poised to make a lot of noise about it when they converge next Thursday in Albany’s annual Higher Education Lobbying Day.

Under current budget provisions, two-year CUNY institutions, such as Kingsborough Community College, are funded  through a configuration that includes both City and State allocations. Currently, the City allocates $354 million per year for CUNY community colleges. In four-year institutions, like Brooklyn College, Albany primarily funds as they do the four-year State University of New York (SUNY) colleges. The City contributes to these senior colleges with 32 million dollars to fund the two-year programs within.

But in Cuomo’s FY 2017 spending plan, he cut spending for CUNY four-year schools, which would mean the City was on the hook for another $485 million. Cuomo’s proposal did include a $240 million line item to settle with the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing the 25,000 teachers and professional staff, which has been working without a contract for six years.

 But PSC President Barbara Bowen said the cuts to the school funding is not the way to come to terms for a new contract.

“A budget is a political document, a statement of priorities. And for the past five years, during Governor Cuomo’s term of office, the budgets have represented a political decision to shortchange the students we teach at CUNY. The Legislature has made significant efforts to mitigate the effect of State divestment, but the sad truth is that even the enacted budgets show a pattern of decreasing investment,” she said in recent testimony to a joint higher education committee in Albany.

Bowen said that under the Cuomo administration, funding has actually decreased by 3 percent, adjusted to inflation. An analysis by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer backs up Bowen’s claim as it found that if State contributions to CUNY had grown at the same rate as the State’s operating budget over the last seven years, the system would have received an additional $637 million.

The Brooklyn College Campus
The Brooklyn College Campus

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s budget proposal also includes a $1,500 tuition hike for students phased in over five years. This has the The CUNY University Student Senate (USS), which has representatives from across CUNY’s 24 schools, and serves as a legislative body advocating for the nearly half million CUNY student population, boiling mad.

“We are deeply disappointment to learn that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Fiscal Year 2016-17 Executive Budget proposes profound cuts to the City University of New York (CUNY) and supports extending the so-called “Rational” Tuition Plan,”” said Chika Onyejiukwa, USS Vice Chair for Legislative Affairs.

“CUNY is experiencing growing record enrollment numbers and an overwhelming majority of our students and alumni live and work in New York City and State. Instead of passing the buck, it is time to invest the buck in CUNY. The state’s investment would be returned through increased tax contributions over the lifetimes of our current and future students,” Onyejiukwa added.

The Cuomo press office did not get back with a response at post time. This story will be updated when one is received.

Cuomo has told media outlets that when the final budget is passed before the April 1, deadline, his cuts would not cost the city any money. A point, in which Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will take the governor at his word.