New York state officials are getting a mixed grade from higher education advocates for a state budget that spent $500 million in added support for operations at the state's public universities and colleges.
But at the same time, the spending plan did not address increasing maximum awards for the tuition assistance program, nor did it roll back tuition costs.
Colleges in both the private and public sector have been working through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, coupled with declining student enrollment.
"Students have been sounding the alarm on higher education funding shortfalls for years – the state’s 2023 adopted budget begins to answer the call," said Megan Ahearn, the program director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. "There is no doubt that this higher education budget is the most positive in a generation, taking steps to support education equity and quality. Yet, it falls short of the financial needs of students and of higher education institutions."
State lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul's $220 billion budget for the State University of New York system as well as the City of University of New York did expand the Tuition Assistance Program to part-time students who are enrolled in six or more credits in the public college systems.
At the same time, the budget:
- Included $5 million to restore tuition assistance for people in prison to receive higher education instruction
- Added millions of dollars for both SUNY and CUNY to address the so-called "gap" in the tuition assistance program
- Boosted spending for the college and university system by $53 milion each to hire additional full-time faculty at four-year colleges or community colleges
- Approved $15.6 million in start-up funds to expand child care at all SUNY and CUNY campsues as well as $2 million for SUNY and CUNY mental health programs.
But advocates are also concerned the budget did not do enough to address affordability issues. NYPIRG pointed to the lack of deals to increase the maximum Tuition Assistance Program Award or finding ways of reducing the cost of tuition. At the same time, the budget did not boost Bundy Aid, which is meant to benefit independent colleges in New York.
"SUNY and CUNY community colleges, as well as the small four-year SUNY and private colleges, are all facing serious financial shortfalls that correspond with plummeting enrollments," Ahearn said. "Not only do those shortfalls harm the institutions, they undermine the state’s economic development. Colleges and universities are hands down the best investment the state can make in its future."