Emphasizes Vital Importance of CUNY Mission and Settling Faculty and Staff Contract
In testimony delivered in Albany on the 2016-2017 State Executive Budget, Chancellor James B. Milliken said state support is critical to continuing CUNY's mission to students, ensuring its graduates become leaders, and finding new ways to strengthen the University for the future.
Chancellor Milliken emphasized the vital, historic mission of The City University of New York as "a gateway to progress and fulfillment for many New Yorkers," particularly those from low-income families, underrepresented groups and immigrants. Graduates who earned their degrees from CUNY over the past 40 years earn $63 billion a year, nearly all of that in New York State where they go on to live and work.
"The support the state provides to these talented young New Yorkers is at the heart of CUNY's and, I believe, New York's, success," Chancellor Milliken said. "We may give our students opportunities, but what they give to CUNY, our communities and our state is unparalleled drive, ambition, talent and creativity.
"Our graduates have been instrumental in making New York the cultural, financial and business capital of the world, and we are actively strengthening CUNY to ensure that the University and those graduates continue to play a leading role for the benefit of this state," Chancellor Milliken said.
Chancellor Milliken cited the unique mandate and historic legislation that established the City University, charging it with a distinctive mission: that the University will be "an independent system of higher education," that it must be "responsive to the needs of its urban setting" and operate as "an integrated system," with close collaboration between the community colleges and senior colleges.
The New York State Legislature also declared that: "The City University is of vital importance as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the City of New York."
The Chancellor said: "Like you, we are committed to not just carrying out that mandate, but to constantly finding new ways to strengthen it."
In his testimony, Chancellor Milliken said his "highest priority" is to settle the long-standing collective bargaining negotiations between the University and the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents the faculty and professional staff at CUNY's 24 public colleges and graduate and professional schools.
"I can say without equivocation that my highest priority as well as that of the Board of Trustees and the college presidents is to get this contract settled and pay the increases to which our over 45,000 thousand faculty and staff are entitled," the Chancellor said.
Chancellor Milliken also noted the importance of financial aid to the success of low-income students who attend CUNY.
"CUNY is home to three-quarters of all Pell Grant recipients in New York City, a critical form of financial aid to our neediest and, I can attest, many our most dedicated students. Similarly, New York's remarkable investment in the Tuition Assistance Program or TAP is key to our students' ability to attend college," the Chancellor said.
Chancellor Milliken remarked on the success of CUNY's acclaimed ASAP program, and requested restoration of state funding to the ASAP budget. The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, widely known as ASAP, has tripled graduation rates at CUNY's community colleges by providing a range of academic, financial and personal supports.
In addition, the Chancellor requested the restoration of funding to support child care services on campuses; funding for the newly accredited CUNY School of Medicine at City College, which opens its doors next fall; and an increase in community college base aid.
The Chancellor remarked on a proposal in the Executive Budget that would shift CUNY funding, with New York City assuming responsibility for 30 percent — or $485 million — of operating costs and debt service. The proposal was accompanied by an investment of $240 million to help settle bargaining agreements.
"I would argue there is a need for greater overall investment in an institution that is responsible for 500,000 students every day," Chancellor Milliken said. "To serve them and the state well, it is essential that the investment in CUNY be stable, secure and adequate; that, in my mind, should be the discussion we have. Of the many investments the state is asked to make, I am convinced that higher education produces one of the highest returns on investment you can achieve, and its one that changes the trajectory of generations."
Chancellor Milliken said CUNY has a strong record of consolidating operations, sharing services and seeking efficiencies. This year, CUNY cut $50 million in costs through a series of steps including hiring freezes, purchasing reductions, reductions in temporary employees and more. CUNY has also been a national leader in consolidating back office functions and implementing shared services in many areas such as information technology, human resources, admissions and financial aid, security and more.
"We embrace our role as stewards of public funds, and we know we can always improve. We will continue to look at ways to shift expenditures to those areas directly affecting the outcomes of our students," Chancellor Milliken said.