Dozens of City University of New York (CUNY), the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-NY) faculty union, and elected officials crowded the steps at the Tweed Courthouse last week to protest against Mayor Eric Adams’ $60 million cuts to CUNY funding in the city budget.
The CUNY school system has about 225,000 students across 25 campuses, many of whom come from low-income backgrounds and reside in the city to pursue their careers. The overall budget for CUNY is $4.3 billion.
“This is very easy, very clear,” said Councilmember Pierina Sanchez at the rally. “When you talk about cutting programs, you are talking about a direct affront on communities of color. You’re talking about a direct affront on the fight against inequality.”
The recently released state budget allocates $103 million for CUNY, $1 million for campus mental health programs, and $135 million for school meals, but rejects tuition increases for state residents. However, education advocates and students are livid about the $60 million in cuts in the city’s budget for fiscal years 2023 and 2024. They are demanding budget restorations and a $35 million increase to hire new full-time academic advisors.
PSC-NY President James Davis said in a statement that the state budget was a step in the right direction towards a New Deal for CUNY, a bill that aims to fully fund CUNY and make the universities tuition-free. He maintains that the city cuts will still leave student and adjunct faculty jobs at risk.
“These gains couldn’t have come at a better time, as CUNY management has proposed deep ‘savings target’ cuts to academic programs and student services because of state budget uncertainty, cuts from Mayor Eric Adams, and enrollment declines,” said Davis. “With these significant increases in state funding, Chancellor Matos Rodríguez must reverse the planned cuts and commit to protecting the jobs of PSC members, appropriate class sizes, and the quality of a CUNY education.”
The cuts are in keeping with the city’s Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which is supposed to save the city money. In an analysis of the proposed city budget released by Comptroller Brad Lander, there will be a total of $155 million consecutive cuts in fiscal year 2023, meaning 235 faculty and staff positions will be lost, and then there will be $41.3 million in permanent cuts
annually for fiscal years 2024 to 2026. Over the last two rounds of PEGs, said Lander, CUNY has seen a reduction in over $155 million and 35,000 positions.
According to the analysis, CUNY faces “repeated patterns of disinvestment and serious challenges to its finances stemming from inconsistent state and city funding, unstable tuition revenues, the expiration of federal pandemic aid, and rising costs due to inflation.”
RELATED: City University of New York students protest against proposed tuition hike
“Investments in CUNY are investments in the future of New York City,” Lander said at the rally. “Let’s be very clear. When we say CUNY is the essential vehicle for upward mobility, here’s what we mean: 80% of CUNY undergraduates are students of color [and] 45% are first-generation college students. CUNY is creating the path to opportunity that makes NYC what it is.”
The analysis concluded that the budget “jeopardizes” CUNY’s ability to provide quality academic and student services and the expansion of programs like CUNY Reconnect, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and Accelerate, Complete, Engage (ACE). It suggested that the mayor and city council should invest further, rather than impose cuts.
“I want to see students of color in academia so we have to support emerging faculty members, these students, these disciplines,” said Councilmember Shahana Hanif, “and I am committed.”
City council is currently holding hearings on the city budget for fiscal year 2024 from May 8 to May 24 at City Hall. They will hear testimonies from city agencies and the public on the mayor’s proposed budget.
Members of the public can register to testify virtually via Zoom or phone. Written testimony may be submitted up to 72 hours after the hearing.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.
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