The Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York has fiercely advocated for an increase in funding to New York City’s public university system. In a news release received by The Ticker on Jan. 25, the PSC-CUNY called for the state to fully fund the university system, beginning with an increase of the state’s funding for CUNY to $300 million.
The press release cites a testimony of the organization’s president, Barbara Bowen, in which she called for the New York State Legislature to approve the funding increase, which would solve CUNY’s current financial situation.
Bowen testified that the increased funding would allow CUNY to hire 1,000 full-time professors, increase the adjuncts’ per-course pay from $3,500 to $7,000 and provide $35 million for professors to spend more one-on-one time with individual students in order to improve graduation rates.
The press release mentions the Excelsior Scholarship that was proposed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, which would provide aid to students whose families earn less than $125,000 per year. The scholarship, the press release states, would cover the remaining costs after financial aid has been applied. Full-time students who graduate from senior colleges within four years and those who graduate from community colleges in two years would be eligible.
While the request is admirable, it does face several issues. The same press release states that between 2008 and 2015, the state’s contribution for each student enrolled in a senior college fell 17 percent. The Rational Tuition Increase plan, which was in effect for five years, filled the hole. The rest of CUNY’s funding came from the city. With the state’s past behavior in mind, it is very unlikely that New York will fully fund CUNY.
The other possibility—that New York City will increase its funding to CUNY—is less likely than ever, as President Donald Trump signed an executive order to cut funding to sanctuary cities that do not work with immigration enforcement. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio repeatedly stated that he will not support the president and is working with mayors of other sanctuary cities to bring the executive order to court, the city may be too strained to add additional funding to CUNY.
The days when CUNY was free to all students are long gone. While many see the benefits of a tuition-free college education, the current political situation makes the idea of a free CUNY quite unlikely to come true.