Today, almost half of all undergraduates in the United States are attending a community college. Here in New York City, the six community colleges of The City University of New York - Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, and Queensborough Community College - serve nearly 79,000 degree-credit students and almost 118,000 adult and continuing education students, the highest level in more than 32 years.
However, the 2008-2009 Mayor’s Executive Budget recommends cuts that seriously threaten these critical educational programs.
The Executive Budget leaves our community colleges with a $25.7 million shortfall in direct operating support - an 8 percent cut. To manage these cuts, our colleges will have to eliminate teachers and class sections, cut library hours, forego the purchase of lab supplies, and decrease tutoring and advising services. There is no question that such reductions will have a harmful impact on our students.
Our community colleges play an indispensable role in the economic development of this city. Almost 90 percent of our graduates are employed within six months of earning their associate degree, and over 94 percent are either employed or enrolled for additional education. CUNY students also stay in New York City: of those who are employed, 93 percent work in New York City, contributing to the city’s economy.
For example, over the last five years, CUNY has graduated half of all the new registered nurses that come from New York City-based nursing schools. On the 2007 National Council Licensure Examination - the national certification exam for nurses - six CUNY colleges, including three community colleges, are among the top 10 schools in New York State with both the highest pass rates and 75 or more test takers. These ambitious students are the city’s workforce - its talent and its taxpayers.
CUNY’s capital program is also threatened by this year’s recommended city budget. In capital funding, every state dollar spent on our community colleges must be matched by city funds; otherwise, we cannot access the state funds. However, city matching funds were not provided for most of the new state appropriations for the community colleges in the fiscal year 2008-2009 State Adopted Budget.
This includes funding for critical maintenance needs, such as heating and ventilation systems, exterior walls, and electrical equipment. The state appropriated $88.9 million for these needs, but the city’s Executive Budget provided no additional funding to match state funds. With every delay, conditions at our community college campuses worsen.
As more and more students strive to insure themselves against the economic forces that are mounting against them, we must keep open their pathways to education, which represent their best insurance policy. Only with city support will we be able to continue to offer our students and our city the tools they need to weather any economic climate.
Matthew Goldstein is Chancellor of The City University of New York