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on a day the headline in the
Albany Times-Union
read,
equally ominously, “Paterson
Warns of More Red Ink.” Smith
acknowledges some pushback.
“Our faculty tend to be rather
aloof and don’t really view
themselves as an important
cog in the economic engine,”
he said. “We’ve found a certain
resistance.”
Faculty at CUNY are
even involving themselves in
fundraising, which the system
has promised the governor
and legislature it will step
up, under what it calls the
CUNYCompact, a bid for
greater andmore stable state
support. Already, CUNY has
raisedmore than $1.2 billion
toward a goal of $3 billion by
2015. It claims $40million
from efficiencies including
energy savings and an end to
direct-mail advertising. SUNY
has consolidated telephone and electricity contracts and
information technology. And both schools practice the kind
of collaboration higher education reformers push, by teaming
up with Columbia, NYU and other research institutions in the
NewYork Structural Biology Center, collectively underwriting
the expensive facilities and faculty required for study in such
areas as structural genomics.
But CUNY also plans its own new center to house
research in hot, grant-generating fields including photonics,
nanotechnology and neuroscience—something not all of its
science faculty necessarily support. “One of the concerns the
science faculty has voiced tome is that the resources will follow
that center, and the already crowded and cramped labs in a
college campus in, let’s say, Queens, that those conditions will
become even worse as the resources get diverted,” said Barbara
Bowen, head of the CUNY faculty union. Jay Hershenson,
CUNY’s senior vice chancellor for university relations,
responded, “The quality of a university, at the end of the day,
is a function of the quality of its faculty. And youmust have
excellent opportunities for research. A great university must
have great research.”
What it alsomust have, most involved agree, is a more
rational, regular systemof tuition increases and budgets. “New
York allocates funds for construction over a five-year period.
Why can’t we do that with tuition?” Zimpher asked. One
proposal would tie future increases to the higher education
price index. Another would let schools make “modest”
and “predictable” annual tuition increases on their own—
something that now requires legislative action—and charge
tuition that could vary by program and by campus. CUNY,
too, seeks more predictable tuition hikes, in part because it
is assumed that this is something NewYork’s beleaguered
students would support.
But upstate at Hudson Valley Community College, which
is part of the SUNY system, that does not entirely appear to be
the case. At this campus in the northwesternNewYork town of
Troy, a onetime steel town a fifth of whose residents live below
the poverty line, the crowding manifests itself outside the walls,
where there is a sea of cars. Cars spill over from the parking
lots, jump curbs, block sidewalks, and sprawl across the grass.
Just days earlier, President Barack Obama spoke at this
school about his goal of restoring the country to first in the
world in the proportion of college graduates by 2020.
On the walls here, too, among the notices about the pep
band and the Frisbee club, are posters about how to apply for
food stamps.There’s a student-run food bank. In his office,
where a picture of Obama hangs prominently, Clifton Dixon,
president of the student government, said that times are tough.
“We’re proud to have record enrollment, but if they continue
to raise tuition, a lot of people won’t be able to afford it,” said
Dixon, who returned to college 13 years after dropping out of
high school and hopes to go to law school. “I’ve never heard
any student, nor do I think I ever will, say, ‘Please raise my
tuition.’ You can’t pay more of what you don’t have.”
Taking time out frompreparing for a protest against the
budget cuts, CUNY’s Barbara Bowen pondered where the
students who can’t afford
the public universities—
or can’t get in—have
gone. Many, she said, are
opting for the private,
for-profit programs, and
are requiring high-priced
loans of the type that
advertise on subways,
buses and late-night TV.
“Or they are simply not
going to college at all,”
she speculated. “They
have had obstacles placed
in their path since day
one, and once further
obstacles were put in their path, they just couldn’t do it.”
Those who do go to college, said Bowen, “have the constant
experience of having to fight to get their education. It takes a
heroic effort when you have to line up for everything, squeeze
into a class, hope you can get time with your professor.That’s a
betrayal of students who have been led to believe that college is
an opportunity for them.The experience of college should not
be every day having to fight for a seat in class.”
u
JonMarcus is a writer based in Boston who covers higher
education in the U.S. for the (UK)
Times Higher Education
magazine.
Like public
universities in many
states, CUNY and
SUNY are increasing
both enrollment
and tuition to
compensate for
falling state support.
The best way for SUNY to win global recognition,
says Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, is to help New
York rebound from the recession. “The only way
we’re going to grow our way out of this situation is
to invest in higher education.”
Nathaniel Brooks, Black Star, for CrossTalk