An economic recession ought to be a time of prioritizing. Just as families prepare for an uncertain future by skipping vacations and safeguarding retirement and savings accounts, so too must governments give priority to areas that build towards the future. That includes New York’s governments, state and city.
So it’s puzzling to consider the 2010-11 State Executive Budget’s recommendations to cut support for The City University of New York—by about $84 million for the system’s senior colleges, and by almost $22 million for community colleges. One of the few, and the most important, ways that New Yorkers can meaningfully plan for the future is through higher education. A college degree is associated with better career opportunities, a higher lifetime income and improved health and job security.
Making cuts to one of the state’s few pipelines to jobs—a true engine of workforce and economic development—is a serious public policy mistake. What’s more, it ignores three critical trends.
First, CUNY is experiencing record enrollment. Spring enrollment of 257,000 is the largest ever for that semester, up more than 5 percent from last year. Fall 2010 registrations are on track to top last year’s record high.
Second, CUNY is in the midst of an academic renaissance. Increased enrollment includes many more high-achieving students. The celebrated Macaulay Honors College is producing some of the city’s finest graduates. And CUNY colleges are regularly included on “best value” lists for public institutions.
Third, the federal government is elevating public higher education on the national stage. The American Graduation Initiative would invest $12 billion into strengthening community colleges and helping an additional 5 million students earn degrees and certificates by the year 2020.
“Time and again,” President Obama has said, “when we placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result.”
CUNY’s six community colleges serve more than 89,000 students through degree programs, job training and professional development. These resources are a necessity in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and CUNY’s community colleges are nationally recognized for innovative work. Yet both the state and city are recommending substantial cuts to community college budgets.
In a time of economic uncertainty, New York should be protecting these assets. The recommended reductions to CUNY’s budget must be restored.
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