The Professional Staff Congress and City University of New York students urged the scrapping of nearly $70 million in proposed cuts in the city budget to the public-university system.
The Mayor’s Executive Budget proposed $77 million in cuts to CUNY community colleges. Many of these cuts were carried over from the preliminary budget released prior to the city receiving Federal coronavirus funding—but even with the stimulus, the funds for CUNY were not restored, noted PSC President Barbara Bowen.
$10M Restored, But...
An agreement has been reached to restore $10 million in funding for the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which provides academic and financial assistance for students who face barriers to graduating, but advocates pushed for the rest of the cuts to be set aside.
“This is the year that CUNY should be getting more. It’s unfathomable,” Ms. Bowen said at a May 21 virtual press conference held ahead of a City Council budget hearing.
Although the city funds both senior and community colleges, it provides more than a third of CUNY community colleges’ operating budgets. Scott Cally, the PSC chapter chair at Kingsborough Community College, feared that the cuts could result in fewer counselors and staff, as well as larger class sizes.
Many of CUNY’s community colleges were expecting to see an additional reduction in revenue because of a drop in enrollment.
“The deep cuts that the Mayor has proposed would devastate community colleges,” Mr. Cally said.
Seeking 'Budget Justice'
Students feared that the cuts would exacerbate longstanding problems such as the lack of advisers.
Juvanie Piquant, chair of the CUNY University Student Senate, called that prospect “alarming.”
“We’re rallying for budget justice, and when we talk about budget justice, we’re really talking about education justice,” she said.
Ms. Piquant added that the advocates should not praise the city for agreeing to restore ASAP.
“It should be a given,” she contended.
Several City Council Members are fighting to restore the funds in the budget that will take effect July 1, including Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal. Council Members Mark Levine and Antonio Reynoso argued that it made no sense to slash funding at CUNY when the public-university system was expected to play a key role in reviving the city post-pandemic.
“We’re supposed to be building back better, not the same,” Mr. Reynoso said.
Many pointed out that CUNY serves the low-income black and brown communities that were hardest hit by COVID.
“Mayor de Blasio, this is your last budget. Please do not turn your back on CUNY,” said Remysell Salas, a Professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and director of the CUNY Rising Alliance.
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