President Wu addresses tuition and proposed budget concerns

Maya Demchak-Gottlieb, Editor-In-Chief

Additional reporting by Emanuela Gallo and Farah Javed

Amid a flurry of budgetary, funding and tuition related reports, Baruch College President S. David Wu addressed the Baruch community’s concerns in a sit-down interview with The Ticker.

Wu provided background on the budget process. He explained that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget is still in the process of being reviewed.

This means that issues like the proposed 3% tuition hike and the amount of funding allocated to CUNY can still be changed.

Wu said he has been active in voicing concerns about the proposed budget.

“About a month ago I started talking to our legislatures on a regular basis and telling them what actually happens on the ground and why they should be advocating for us,” he said.

The tuition hike in particular sparked outrage, a sentiment shared by Baruch students who protested against the hike in the Clivner=Field Plaza.

Wu explained that the hike may not be implemented.

“My understanding is this tuition hike is very unpopular among the legislatures and whether it’s actually going to happen or not is a big question,” Wu said. “My guess is the legislature[s] are probably going to find a way where they will say, ‘Okay, you need X amount of dollars coming from the tuition hike and we will allocate this amount of money to you instead of it coming from the tuition hike.’ They have done this in the past.”

While Hochul’s proposed budget would also increase funding for CUNY, Wu said it did not increase by the amount CUNY had expected.

“One of the big issues that CUNY had this year with the governor’s budget was the parity between CUNY and SUNY,” he said. “The governor put a lot more money this year into SUNY rather than CUNY although in both cases it was an increase technically.”

Wu said he is committed to advocating for an increase to CUNY’s funding and he encouraged students to also contact their representatives.

“We are really the bedrock of New York City and it’s not fair that they give a lot more money to the upstate schools unless the downstate schools get parity,” he said.

In the face of funding concerns, CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez sent an email explaining that the different CUNY schools must each find 5% in savings to compensate for the decrease in enrollment and the lower than anticipated funding,  according to The New York Post.

“Most of the other CUNY schools out there, all except for Baruch, have experienced a pretty substantial enrollment decrease,” Wu said. “When you have a big enrollment decrease, obviously that has a direct impact on the budget. The 5% savings actually is a proactive movement to say, put some of this in the piggy bank in case you need it, but we’re not taking that away from you yet.”

The 5% is not likely to have a significant impact on Baruch, though, Wu said.

“In our case, since we have a balanced budget and actually our enrollment is very healthy,” he said. “We grew by almost 12% during the pandemic. We can put money in the piggy bank, but at the end of the day it is unlikely to have a big impact because our finances are fundamentally sound.”

CUNY’s efforts to save are also part of its strategy to strengthen the argument that it should receive more funding.

“This is CUNY’s way of saying we’re doing some of this ourselves, we’re putting some money in the piggy bank and by the way, we really need more money from the state as opposed to we’re doing nothing, just give us money,” Wu said.

Wu visited Albany with the Baruch delegation which included USG representatives. He said Mayor Adams and Attorney General Letitia James also attended and Speaker Carl Hastie advocated for the importance of CUNY, which they said they experienced firsthand as CUNY graduates.

In the same email notifying CUNY schools to find 5% in savings, the chancellor also announced hiring must now go through the Vacancy Review Board, a committee at the CUNY Central office.

“There is not technically a hiring freeze, it is what they call a VRB process, where every hiring decision has to be reviewed centrally,” Wu said. “They have done this two years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic when there were budget problems.”

All Baruch faculty positions have been approved by the VRB because of growing enrollment and Wu said he expects the approvals to continue.

He also shared that he is prioritizing certain areas of Baruch’s budget.

“We are still working on that 5% savings and to see where we can put money in the piggy bank and we are trying to find ways that we could be running more efficiently, but there are two major priorities that we’re not going to cut back on: one is student services and other is instruction,” he said.

One student service that has faced funding difficulties is the Baruch Counseling Center.

The Ticker reported previously that the center is only able to have two full time counselors for the entire student body and an end to COVID-19 grant money has the potential to worsen the problem.

“Once the federal money runs out the question is whether we’re going to replace it or not and the answer is yes, we already have a sort of budget plan to do that,” Wu said. “When the money runs out, we will be able to continue to find other parts in the budget to support it.”

Instead of achieving cost-cutting through scaling back student services, Wu said he is expanding those sectors to meet the increased demand for them caused by increasing enrollment.

“In general, the student services areas are where we have been adding additional resources in anywhere from academic advising to the counseling center and to the tutoring center and so on and so forth,” he said.

Wu acknowledged that the funding and staffing problems are difficult to address and that it is hard to keep up with the pace of enrollment. However, he committed to working toward addressing the issue in a variety of ways.

“Our students are growing fast and our staffing is not,” Wu said. “We have added additional academic advisors and we’re going to continue support for the Counseling Center and we’re also making alliances with other consulting services around the city and that will help us.”