The City University of New York (CUNY) could be forced to engage in massive layoffs of faculty and staff as state Governor Andrew Cuomo approved budget cuts without adding measures to raise revenues.
CUNY is the largest urban university system in the US, with 11 colleges and seven community colleges. While based in New York City, 60 percent of funding is allocated by the state government.
In April, Governor Cuomo approved a $177 billion budget which included provisions in which the governor’s office may cut the budget allotted to municipalities. This resulted in massive cuts in various sectors, including social welfare, healthcare, and education, affecting CUNY.
Effects of Budget Cuts on CUNY
The budget cuts levied on CUNY have been “devastating,” said Barbara Bowen, president of Professional Staff Congress, the union which represents 25,000 faculty and staff in the CUNY system. “It’s becoming increasingly damaging,” she added.
Some of the colleges are now operating on a month-to-month budget when they previously had a fiscal year allocation. This affected the job security of adjunct teachers, who can only be assured of the current semester they’re teaching. These teachers could add to the 3,000 employees that have already been laid off.
With the current student population for CUNY at 271,000, there may be teacher shortages in classes after the layoffs. Class sizes could increase to between 50 and 70 students.
Addressing the Deficit
This year, the State of New York could run a deficit of around $14.5 billion. The state was already facing a deficit but it was aggravated by the economic shutdown due to the pandemic. New York has been the hotbed of COVID-19 in the US, with over 491,000 cases and 32,000 deaths.
Democratic congressmen have tried to avert the budget cuts with tax measures. New York City is the country’s richest municipality and there were calls to increase taxes on the “ultra-rich” to cover the deficit.
However, Cuomo has insisted on waiting for the White House to address his request for Federal Aid. He also reasoned that if New York alone raises taxes, the rich will just move to other tax-friendly locations. “Let the federal government pass a tax increase,” Cuomo said in a July press briefing.
There are already bills in the Senate to increase taxes, with specific sectors such as education as beneficiaries. Democratic Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, also co-sponsored a bill to tax the ultrawealthy. She said it is “not ok not to act” since people’s lives are at stake.