Free Tuition for New York State Residents
The Excelsior Scholarship did not go far enough. We need actual free higher education for all New York State residents at CUNY and SUNY schools. No student should be forced to choose between getting a job to help out their family and pursuing a college education. Yet Excelsior requires students to take a full 15 credit course load to qualify. An estimated 90 percent of community college students and 60 percent of four year college students would be excluded from the program due to the onerous requirements that come with the program. Giving all CUNY and SUNY students, part-time and full, an opportunity to pursue a degree with no tuition or debt would allow for greater economic mobility and give young women and men across the state a chance at a better life. There should be no strings attached—if a student graduates and lands a job beyond the borders of New York, a scholarship should not be transformed into debt.
We will do this by increasing state funding for education and creating a more progressive tax structure—closing the carried interest loophole and introducing a new millionaire’s tax, for example. We will be able to raise new revenue for education if we legalize and tax marijuana statewide. SUNY must also cease wasteful spending on initiatives that have nothing to do with academics. We do not need new football stadiums, opulent gymnasiums, and overpaid athletic coaches at our SUNY’s. We need educational opportunities.
Higher Education Free of Fees
Other burdens overlooked by the Excelsior Scholarship were fees and housing costs. The average cost of a four year degree from a SUNY prior to this initiative was $83,000. The cost afterward? $26,000, an amount that is still out of reach for many New York State residents. This is still an incredible debt burden for a student when leaving college. On top of free tuition, room and board must be covered at SUNY’s, transportation costs must be covered at CUNY’s, and burdensome fees must be eliminated in order to provide a truly free higher education to all New York State residents.
Faculty and Advisement Staff Increases for CUNY and SUNY
Funding for full-time faculty at CUNY and SUNY schools is essential to the success of students across the state. We see it in increasing class sizes, required courses that are offered so sporadically that their availability delays graduation, and in a lack of staff to guide students to graduating on time. And with one of the requirements of the Excelsior Scholarship being an on-time graduation date, the lack of resources in our higher education institutions becomes an even greater problem. The state must do whatever it possibly can to fully fund the faculty and support staff in our city and state colleges to ensure students are receiving a quality education and are getting the guidance through the experience that they need.
Physical Infrastructure Funding Increases for CUNY
While enrollment at CUNY has increased by 40 percent since 2000, college facilities overall have not been adequately expanded to support this increase. From state of the art computer labs to basic classroom space, we must fund space increases and technology upgrades to ensure students in New York City are receiving a quality higher education in modern facilities. We must reverse the withdrawal of state funding so our academic institutions can be crown jewels again. At Brooklyn College, for example, the infrastructure is literally crumbling. Bathrooms are broken, ceiling tiles are missing, and the school clock tower stopped functioning. If the physical space deteriorates much further, students will not be able to learn.
Fair Pay for Adjunct Faculty
The importance of funding full-time faculty is crucial, but even more important is ensuring adjunct faculty are receiving fair compensation for the work they put in. According to the CUNY PSC, in fall of 2000 there were 7,800 adjunct faculty within the CUNY system. In 2016, that number nearly doubled to 14,400. In many cases, while teaching as many classes as full-time faculty would, adjuncts receive around $25,000 a year in compensation. While it is often said that these adjuncts are part-time professors with full-time jobs outside of lecturing, in many if not most instances that simply is not true. Providing pay in line with the request by the CUNY PSC is a must to ensure adjuncts are compensated appropriately. In addition to paying adjuncts a living wage, we must return to a system that once existed and barely does now—offering a pathway to tenure for adjuncts. Overworked, underpaid adjuncts cannot bear the brunt of this status quo any longer. They deserve stability, support, and the benefits of tenure; students, in turn, will get a better education.
In conjunction with the above proposals to fully fund tuition, room, and board, and fees for higher education in New York State, we must expand these resources to Dreamers in New York State. This proposal has been blocked repeatedly by Republicans in the New York State Senate over the last seven years, and this legislative session has proven to be no different. We cannot continue to leave young New Yorkers who were brought here as children and have grown up here to be left out of these conversations. With increasing hostility coming out of Washington D.C., now, more than ever, we must stand up for all New York State residents, regardless of immigration status.