NYSUT’s Higher Education Lobby Day takes place each year as the New York State Legislature starts preparing its annual budget proposal. Hundreds of higher education labor activists from throughout the state, including students, converge on the legislative halls in Albany to support and continue the work NYSUT does year round on our behalf: making sure our elected officials understand why a fully-funded system of public higher education is vitally important for New York State. This year’s Lobby Day effort, which took place on Monday and Tuesday, February 11th and 12th, was unfortunately hampered by the same snowstorm that closed NCC, but dozens of activists showed up nonetheless, including members of NCCFT’s Political Action Committee (PAC), led by PAC chair Uzo Osuno, PAC member Christine Tuaillon, and NCCFT Vice President Dawn Smith.
Coordinating with the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College, as well as other community college unions across the state, your Political Action Committee contacted legislators in person and by phone to underline the message delivered in January by NYSUT President Andy Pallotta when he testified before the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee: “Notwithstanding the legislature’s commitment to community colleges, state funding to these campuses is not commensurate with the provisions of state education law [which] stipulates that the state shall pay 40% of the operating costs of these campuses, [a commitment and obligation] that the state is not meeting…”
In addition to emphasizing President Pallotta’s point in each meeting, our talking points were very straightforward and simple:
- The 2019-20 New York State Executive Budget proposal provides flat funding per full-time equivalent (FTE) student for community colleges. Flat funding will likely force these campuses to raise tuition and/or eliminate programs and student services. If the State’s base funding remains flat, some community colleges, including Nassau Community College, will receive less state funding due to enrollment fluctuations.
- We therefore urged the Legislature to increase base aid by $250 per FTE student. This would raise the per student level of spending to $3,097, an amount that would mitigate the impact of a loss of state aid due to enrollment fluctuations.
- Even though enrollment on some campuses has decreased, operational costs have not. Therefore, in order for campuses to maintain and enhance academic programming and support, their state funding needs to be increased.
- As per NYSUT’s guidance, we also urged the Legislature to add SUNY community colleges to the list of educational institutions eligible for exemption from the Metropolitan Transportation Mobility Tax.
- Finally, we provided each legislator the chart below, which illustrates that SUNY community college students are paying the lion’s share of operating costs on these campuses. Over the ten-year period from 2008-09 to 2018-19, SUNY community college students went from paying 40.8 percent of the operating costs to approximately 41.4 percent while the state’s contribution for the same period decreased from 30.8 percent to 25 percent.
Higher Education Lobby Day is an important effort organized every year by NYSUT on our behalf, and the messages we deliver as part of that effort are a crucial component of our political action work. It is equally important, however, that your legislators hear from you, their constituents, and so we are asking you to follow up by writing or calling them to underscore how crucially important the talking points listed above are if New York State’s institutions of higher education are to continue preparing students to meet the demands of the 21st century. You can download a listing of elected officials here.
Thank you in advance for your participation in this effort.