Young people should have every opportunity to realize their dream of a higher education. That’s why it is unforgiving that the Governor’s 2006-2007 Executive Budget threatens to jeopardize students’ access to college in a number of significant ways.
It is up to every legislator and citizens statewide to take action to reverse the Governor’s recommended spending cuts while enhancing critical funding for higher education in the final state spending plan. We have until March 31, 2006 to take action; the new budget, if adopted on time, takes effect on April 1. There is no time like the present for this important work to begin!
The Governor is proposing to cut New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) by almost $126 million, and make changes to the program which will make it harder for students to receive their full awards. Specifically, he would require that students take 15 credits a semester, instead of the existing 12, to receive their full award. Otherwise, their TAP award would be reduced by 20 percent.
The Governor is also proposing that "differential tuition" be permitted for SUNY and CUNY, permitting different colleges to charge different amounts. This could conceivably force students to pursue a course of study solely based on its affordability, rather than their interests and abilities.
While the Executive Budget recommends small increases in SUNY and CUNY operating aid, this funding does not begin to address years of state neglect. Between 1994-95 and 2004-05, state spending on higher education decreased by 3.2 percent, and support for SUNY and CUNY decreased by 17.5 percent when adjusted for inflation.
The Governor’s budget will likely result in an approximate $85 million operating deficit for SUNY and a shortfall of nearly $45 million for CUNY. This action will have a devastating impact on tuition costs, leaving the door open to an average tuition increase of $500 for SUNY and $300 for CUNY. Between 1990 and 2005, SUNY tuition rose 190 percent from $1,500 to $4,350. During this same period, CUNY tuition spiked more than 200 percent from $1,300 to $4,000. In essence, the Governor is forcing the institutions’ hand with regard to tuition hikes, making them look to extra tuition money to maintain their current programs, rather than to enhance students’ educational opportunities and outcomes.
The Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which reflects cost increases in higher education, has grown 61.6 percent from 1991 to 2005. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), meanwhile, grew 43.2 percent during this period. However, state tax dollar support for SUNY has grown by only $35.7 million over this 14 year period or a paltry 3.89 percent. As for CUNY, state tax dollar support has grown by only $5 million or less than one percent. These percentages are clearly inadequate when compared to the growth in HEPI and CPI.
There is no question that the Governor’s higher education budget leaves a lot to be desired and will certainly be subject to significant scrutiny and change during the coming months. For more information about his plan for higher education and to join in opposing it, please call Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s office at 718-643-6140.