CUNY programs that reconnect college dropouts with their studies, offer academic support and provide child care to parenting students face preliminary city budget cuts, officials and faculty said at a hearing on higher education Tuesday.
City Council members and advocates said the loss of those programs could actually cost the city more money than it is saving, if students who need the support drop out of their degrees and enrollment continues to plummet.
“We’re cutting some dollars, but we’re losing more money because we’re not investing in these programs,” said Councilman Eric Dinowitz (D-Bronx), who chairs the higher education committee.
CUNY faces tens of millions in cuts under Mayor Adams’ recent plan to eliminate budget deficits, while community colleges alone have lost more than $130 million in tuition revenue since the pandemic, officials said. Tuition has dropped by more than 10% during the last two years.
“CUNY has received funds for some mandatory costs, such as fringe benefits, building leases, collective bargaining, which are very helpful,” said Hector Batista, CUNY executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer, “but these reductions are significant, unsustainable in the long-term.”
Some CUNY students also face the possibility of tuition increases under Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to authorize increases of 3% or a rate of inflation for higher education, whichever is less.
The proposal, supported by the chancellors of CUNY and the State University of New York, was defeated in budget resolutions Tuesday by the state Senate, while the Assembly proposed $65 million in additional operating dollars in lieu of the increases.
At the city level, a program that helps students finish their studies on time it is currently not included in the preliminary budget, CUNY confirmed. Officials cited a study that by helping students graduate faster, they are actually saving money, but those rehires have been put on hold.
Another initiative that re-enrolls college students who left before graduating received a one-time funding of $4.4 million last year, but was not introduced by Mayor Adams. The program has increased the enrollment of more than 16,000 students, and with them, their tuition dollars. Council President Adrienne Adams confirmed that the program is a priority for her in the state of the city last week.
“I think it’s fiscally irresponsible if we’re losing students,” said Councilwoman Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn). “We really need to focus on restoring CUNY … and anchoring it in a way that will support it for generations to come.”
Other popular programs facing cuts include a $1.7 initiative where CUNY students get paid to tutor local public school kidsas well as child care programs at risk of losing $600,000 in funding, CUNY officials and faculty confirmed.
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“It’s cheap and it’s cheap,” said James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s faculty and staff union. “It’s really, really, a huge impediment to supporting those same students that we want to see back in the classroom. Frankly, we will lose them to the University of Phoenix and these other online universities for convenience.”
And while the administration says more than 150 budget-cut positions are vacant and not geared toward students, that claim has been called into question. The Professional Staff Congress testified that 211 pedagogical staff would be cut in addition to the 128 already lost through attrition.
“The OMB tells us one thing, from the city,” said Dinowitz, the committee chair. “But the people who are actually doing the work, hiring and supporting our CUNY system tell us that’s just not the case. And with these cuts, it will be necessary not to rehire or cut teaching staff”.
The Adams administration said Tuesday that it is working with CUNY to find savings that do not lead to layoffs or reduced services. His plan also leaves CUNY with 174 openings to hire in “critical positions,” and the city could work with them to increase capacity if the university system hits that limit.
The officials added that Adams is also rolling out new initiatives to support CUNY, including career programs for tens of thousands of students in nursing and technology.
“Each agency has been asked to achieve savings in response to fiscal and economic conditions, including more than $4 billion in asylum seeker costs for the coming year, funding labor agreements with our workforce, and budget cuts and changes. of state costs,” the city said. Hall’s spokesman, Jonah Allon, “but we remain committed to supporting the CUNY system and advancing its role as the ‘great equalizer’ for our city.”
The final budget must be submitted before July 1.