Funding Woes Force Colleges to Compensate
By: Olivia Frasca
New and returning students may have noticed that the college stopped sending mail. Before a course de-registration period, letters are usually sent to students about paying their tuition on time.
Due to the low budget, CSI lost postage in the summer. Students were dropped from their courses without their knowledge.
Budget cuts aren’t breaking news. Four main sources fund the City University of New York (CUNY) budget: state, city, federal government, and students.
In fiscal year 2019, the state covered 53% of the CUNY budget. This includes aid designated for CUNY, as well as the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
Since 2011, students eligible for full TAP grants receive about $5000 for the year. This does not cover a year’s worth of CUNY tuition, forcing the college to make up the difference.
As CUNY enrollment and tuition increase, the gap between TAP grants and tuition will grow. The result is additional dollars the college must allocate to close the gap.
“Colleges with higher percentages of students who receive TAP generate less revenue from a tuition increase than those colleges with higher student income levels,” according to the City Council Fiscal Year 2020 Preliminary Plan.
This issue, called the “tap gap,” is a major reason why members of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) union are underpaid. 30,000 CUNY faculty and staff make up the union.
According to silive, “CSI had one of the lowest percentages — 33 percent — of undergraduate instruction provided by full-time faculty when compared to the other CUNY schools for the 2016-2017 school year, according to CUNY’s year-end report. At 67 percent, it has one of the highest percentages of course taught by adjuncts.”
Members of the PSC union want $7000 per course for adjunct professors. Starting pay for adjuncts is currently $3200 per course.
“So for people with PhDs, master’s degrees, teaching the next generation of college students, responsible for conveying to them the message that if you finish your college degree, a good future awaits you, that very person who has a college degree and a couple of advanced degrees is making less than minimum wage. There is something very wrong about that,” says Barbara Bowen to the Gotham Gazette.
Over the past decade, the state has tried to decrease funding for CUNY. In January of 2016, Governor Cuomo announced his plan to cut funding for the University by $485 million for fiscal year 2017.
After backlash and rallies by CUNY students and staff, the New York State Assembly rejected the plan.
The New York State Fiscal Year 2020 First Quarterly Update, not adjusted for inflation, budgets $1.68 billion for CUNY, a 2.4% increase from last year. The Higher Education Services Corporation, which includes TAP, budgets $1.01 billion, a 2.1% decrease from last year.
As for the city: “Mayor de Blasio’s preliminary budget, released in February, calls for $1.181 billion for CUNY in fiscal year 2020 … This is a decrease from the $1.196 billion in the adopted budget for the  fiscal year, and includes a $14 million cut for community colleges specifically, from $1.143 billion to $1.129 billion,” explains the Gotham Gazette.
The CUNY Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request highlights programs and services that set the University apart from other institutions, such as mental health counseling, Title IX compliance, and child care centers. ASAP and ACE allow New Yorkers to complete their degrees on time with financial, academic, and personal support.
As the greatest urban university in the world, CUNY needs enough funding so that faculty is fairly paid, tuition is covered without a gap, and mandatory costs are met.
For now, students will notice larger classes, empty vending machines, and broken toilets. Just don’t sit at the desk under the sagging ceiling tile.