July 23, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Referencing his pivotal support in the Fight for $15, higher education advocates on Wednesday urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to be bold and back a measure strengthening the state's financial commitment to hard-pressed CUNY and SUNY schools throughout the system.
Both houses of the New York State Legislature already approved the measure – known as the Maintenance of Effort Bill or MOE – last month, but the governor still needs to sign it into action.
"We could be the public higher education leader at a time when other states think they can make short-term gains by cutting back on public higher education," Professional Staff Congress leader Barbara Bowen said at a rally outside Baruch College on Wednesday. "Governor Cuomo has taken that chance — and he's taken that chance in other arenas — This is a real chance for our governor to take a stand."
CUNY and SUNY schools have been trying to do more with less for years, suffering $1.5 billion in cuts and funding since 2008. The shortfall has shifted more of a burden onto already cash-strapped students who now cover 63 percent of SUNY's operating costs. Five years ago, that figure stood at` 42 percent.
"We're not the only benefactors of obtaining a higher education," student leader Donovan Borington said. "The state benefits through the tax dollars that we pay when we obtain employment. Our communities benefit from the skills that we obtain while we're at college through the community services we provide and the philanthropy that we do. Despite all the challenges that we face, we continue to invest in our future."
More than half of CUNY students come from households with yearly incomes of $29,000 or less.
"The product of education at SUNY/CUNY needs to be enhanced, supported and prioritized with subsequent, adequate and continuous funding," said New York City Central Labor Council President Vinny Alvarez. "The maintenance bill allows us to do that. We know that [the state] wants to support education. We know that they see the value in SUNY/CUNY. We know that when we look at the shortfalls in the tuition, that is a problem which all of us collectively must take a clear stance on. Now is the time for us in New York State and New York City to lead the way."
Similar rallies urging Governor Cuomo to back MOE simultaneously took place in Albany, Buffalo, Manhattan, Mineola and Syracuse.
“College is set to start in a few weeks and SUNY and CUNY students will again be paying more for tuition and fees this year,” said United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D. “Now it’s the state’s turn to pay its fair share. This bill will ensure that the state leaves tuition dollars to be spent on enhancing and expanding academic programs and services.”