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CUNY advocates decry budget cuts, push for investment


Faculty, students and elected officials are urging the mayor and the City Council to reverse proposed budget cuts to the City University of New York and instead pump more money into the public university system. 

Mayor Eric Adams’ budget proposal calls for $41.3 million in annual cuts between fiscal years 2024 and 2026, with the bulk of the cuts – $35 million – coming from staff reductions. The city has already slashed funding for CUNY by $155 million as part of previous "program to eliminate the gap" or PEG cuts, according to a recent report from the city comptroller’s office, and public education advocates argue that CUNY can’t stand to lose any more funding. 

“We cannot endure this death by a thousand PEGs,” said James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY’s 25 campuses.

Davis was among dozens of CUNY advocates who assembled at Tweed Courthouse Thursday afternoon to make their case for increased investment into the nation's largest urban university system.

Since June 2021, CUNY has lost 363 full-time and part-time pedagogical staff, according to the comptroller’s report. Remysell Salas, an adjunct lecturer in the Ethnic and Race Studies Department at the Borough of Manhattan Community College who has taught at CUNY for a decade, noted that the reductions in staff has led to a reduction in course offerings, which in turn makes it more difficult for students to take classes they need to graduate.

“As an adjunct, I see these cuts as an attack on all of my colleagues, my faculty members, especially my community,” he said.

Jobs, courses on the line

Sharon Utakis, an English professor at Bronx Community College, called the cuts “demoralizing.”

“At Bronx Community College, I’ve been hearing that the plan is to cut three-year adjunct appointments, which undermines our contract and means that some of our most experienced adjuncts will no longer be teaching,” she said.

Salimatou Doumbouya, chairperson of the University Student Senate, added that students “are sick and tired of hearing ‘There is no funding, that’s why you don’t have academic advisors.’ ” The coalition called for an additional $35 million in funding to hire 264 advisors.

At the rally, Comptroller Brad Lander said that the cuts would not only “jeopardize faculty positions, but it means jeopardizing CUNY programs that have proven effective time and time again.”

The advocates feared that the budget reductions will hurt programs such as CUNY Reconnect, which re-enrolls former college students who did not complete their degrees, and the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which provides academic and financial assistance for students who face barriers to graduating. The three-year graduation rate for ASAP participants pursuing an associates degree was 53 percent through February, more than twice the graduation rate for CUNY students not enrolled in the program.  

One such program also known to improve graduation rates, Accelerate, Complete and Engage, is also on the chopping block, according to the PSC.

In a 2021 report, the comptroller’s office found that 10 percent of the city’s private-sector workers were CUNY graduates. Half of new nurses coming to work in medical facilities across the city each year come from CUNY, as do one-third of city public school teachers.

Several of the advocates also noted that the cuts will especially hurt students from low-income families, who make up a significant portion of CUNY’s student body.

“CUNY is the single greatest driver of economic and social mobility here in New York City,” said City Council Member Eric Dinowitz. “It’s a good investment. Can you imagine investing in Apple when it was like a nothing company? Amazon when it was just a bookstore? Microsoft right before Windows 95? You would be doing pretty well. That is the type of return on investment we’re talking about when we talk about CUNY.”

Several other members of the Council, including Shahana Hanif, Carmen De La Rosa, and Chris Marte, also came out to voice their support for restoring the cuts.


A City Hall spokesperson stated that the Adams administration has partnered with CUNY to create pathways for students to quality jobs.

“While every agency was asked to achieve savings in response to fiscal and economic conditions — including more than $4 billion in asylum seeker costs by next year, funding labor settlements with our workforce, and slowing growth in tax revenue — we provided a lower PEG target for CUNY to avoid disruptions to classrooms,” the spokesperson said. “We remain committed to supporting the CUNY system and advancing its role as the ‘great equalizer’ for our city.”

In February, CUNY called on each college to find 5-to-6 percent savings, citing shrinking enrollment. The city university system has faced declining enrollment since the pandemic, especially at its community colleges. Between the fall semester of 2019 and the spring semester of 2022, CUNY has lost more than 55,000 students.

“We know enrollment dropped. [But] it is not the time to reduce funding, it is precisely the time to invest,” said the PSC’s Davis. “We are definitely at a crisis point right now. We need to make sure that students are retained and recruited.”



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  • All this is very constructed to further destabilize minority ( mostly) community. The Govt knows very well that these systems work and help poor communities. Corporations, under handed politicians and far more expensive colleges have a lot to do with influence in cutting funding. We must open up our eyes as well as the kids who need to get back to old style basics of rebellion and speaking out against this inhuman attacks on poor / low income/“middle class”

    Wednesday, May 17, 2023 Report this