Campus

Governor, State Legislature Agree to Freeze Tuition and Fully Fund CUNY

By Clifford Michel

A rally outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan Office; Cuomo’s administration has received massive criticism this year from CUNY advocates. Source: Kasara Hassan

A rally outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan Office; Cuomo’s administration has received massive criticism this year from CUNY advocates. Source: Kasara Hassan

Tuition at CUNY will be frozen at its current rate for one year and the CUNY system will receive its $1.5 billion from the state. Legislators formally passed the final budget bills in the morning hours of April 1, ending the political showdown between the state, city, and CUNY itself.

Since Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his plan to shift $485 million in funds for CUNY to the city, advocates have been fighting back, concerned that the political football would result in decreased funding to the University.

“I supported rational tuition,” Cuomo said. “The Legislature disagreed with me, not to pick any house over the other.”

The tuition freeze came as a surprise to many as the CUNY Board of Trustees supported the renewal of the “rational tuition” plan, an unpopular plan amongst advocates and students that allows CUNY to increase funding at senior colleges by $300 a year.

The plan has raised tuition by more than 30% at CUNY over the last five years.

CUNY leadership has come out against Cuomo and the Legislature’s agreement, saying that tuition increases are needed in order to properly fund the University and its growth as well as settle a contract with CUNY’s professor union.

“While some additional operating funding was provided for specific programs, the loss of tuition revenue or its equivalent will impact CUNY’s ability to make needed investments in its faculty and staff at a time of record enrollment and increasing graduation rates,” CUNY Chancellor James Milliken said in a statement.

“Most significantly, of course, no funding was provided for settlement of CUNY’s labor contracts, which are all at least six years out of date,” the statement continued.

Cuomo insisted that he was in a bind when it came to pushing for an extension of the “rational tuition” plan.

“I supported rational tuition,” Cuomo said. “The Legislature disagreed with me, not to pick any house over the other.”

The state has allocated a modest increase of $85 million in funding this year, but CUNY and SUNY officials have said that $112 million ($73 million for SUNY and $39 million for CUNY) in increased funding would be needed to compensate for a tuition freeze.

While demonstrations and wide spread criticism has forced Cuomo’s administration to back off its budget shift, the administration is still pressing CUNY and SUNY to find ways to cut spending costs.

James Malatras, Cuomo’s state operations director, told the New York Daily News, that the funding feud was meant to incentivize CUNY to save money. Malatras cited a Cuomo backed plan to merge multiple CUNY and SUNY operations, which was almost immediately rejected.

“Sometimes the only way to get somebody interested in doing something is to put a little financial skin in the game,” Malatras said.

In Cuomo’s original proposal for CUNY, the Governor promised to allocate $240 million to settle CUNY’s labor contract with the Public Staff Congress, which represents the University’s professors.

While CUNY said that the cost of settling the contract, which has been expired for six years, is upwards of $300 million, both the University and the PSC advocated for the payment.

“There’s no money for it specifically,” said Robert Mujica, state budget director, according to Politico New York. PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen was critical of the last-minute budget deal, saying that not supporting professors and the small increase of $85 million will negatively affect students.

“The budget fails to include any back-pay for CUNY employees and appears to include inadequate funds to replace revenue that would otherwise have come from increased tuition,” Bowen wrote. “While we welcome the elimination of yet another year of tuition increases, a budget that fails to replace needed funds ultimately shortchanges CUNY students.”

The budget deal comes after heavy lobbying from different groups who vehemently opposed the budget shift. CSI students have been heavily involved in demonstrations as well.

At “CUNY Rising”—a huge demonstration that took place in front of Governor Cuomo’s office on March 10 featuring a coalition of labor groups, students, and CUNY supporters—more than two dozen members of the CSI community participated.

“It feels good to see a lot of people come together and fight for good causes,” said Jomayra Clardy, a freshman at CSI.

— Additional reporting by Kasara Hasan

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