New York is poised for another round of midyear cuts in both public university systems and in financial aid under the Tuition Assistance Program, which affect hundreds of thousands of families.
Legislative leaders are now analyzing the cuts proposed by Gov. David Paterson to deal with a deficit in the current budget of more than $3 billion.
United University Professions union President Phillip H. Smith calls the proposal unfair and counterproductive to a strong recovery. He said the cuts will shift more costs to students and their families, force higher tuition and fees, hurt on-time graduation because fewer classes will be offered, and result in fewer full-time professors.
He notes the cuts come after a midyear cut last year and, unlike most state-funded agencies, a decade of little growth in SUNY funding.
“I can’t deny that the state is in a tremendous financial mess,” Phillips said. “There has to be cutbacks. But my question is why can’t we look at this from more of a strategic point of view.” He said that will provide the most savings while protecting critical programs and services that would be disproportionately hurt by even a small cut.
“It will have a chilling effect on CUNY’s plans,” CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein told an Assembly hearing Friday. He noted CUNY’s senior colleges took a $68.3 million cut last year. “We must prevent the damage that will result from a sustained period of reductions.”
It’s the kind of comment that governors and lawmakers usually make, not challenge.
“We’re staring down a $3 billion midyear budget gap and we should all be working together in the spirit of shared sacrifice to address it,” said state Budget Division spokesman Matt Anderson. “Simply decrying proposed cuts without offering real, alternative savings doesn’t reduce a dime of our deficit and ignores the stark choices we need to make in the current environment.”
Paterson has sought cuts, about 11 percent in most areas, not related to personnel or, in the case of SUNY and CUNY and the financial aid program TAP, to students.
“Governor Paterson certainly recognizes the importance of higher education, which is why he proposed and enacted a new $350 million student loan program, among other initiatives,” Anderson said.
Paterson’s two-year, $5 billion plan to keep the state solvent would cut:
—$90 million from SUNY, out of a $2.5 billion core operating budget.
—$53 million from the smaller CUNY, out of a $1.4 billion core operating budget.
—$120 from every TAP grant for hundreds of thousands of public and private college students. The needs-based grants range from a few hundred dollars to covering full tuition.
—$260 cut in aid per full-time student for community colleges.
Two weeks of hearings on all areas of the proposed budget cuts are planned. Paterson expects to call a special legislative session to address the deficit shortly after that.