Budget Cuts and CUNY

Posted on May 13, 2011


By Maria Galicia.

In the Allegory of the Cave Plato writes about certain prisoners who are in a cave and could only see the images that the shadows create on the wall. Plato states “All in all, then what people in this situation would take for the truth would be nothing more than shadows of the manufactured objects” (1). The prisoners of whom he speaks are tied in chains and are unable to move. Furthermore, these prisoners have never left the cave and been to the real world. Since they have never left, these images that they see have become their reality and they believe them to be true. The same situation could be applied to our times. When you watch or read the news, for the majority you come across the subject of budget crises in different states across America. In order to help out with the crises there are budget cuts that need to take place in order to help out with the deficits. Like the prisoners in the cave who are being kept in the dark, many people are misinformed about the situation that’s going on in New York. Furthermore, there are many wrong misconceptions about the situation that people believe to be true. One of them being that these cuts are necessary because they are giving too much back to the people who are poor.

Currently New York is facing an estimated of a $10 billion deficit for the next year and New York City is facing a deficit of $4.6 billion dollars.  In order to help out with the deficit Albany is making cuts to health care, state programs, and most importantly education because  that is a way that it will lead us to a better life. These cuts will have a great affect on the students and their future. The budget is affecting the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) senior and community colleges. As a student attending a CUNY school it is very alarming to hear this since there will be many changes.

Governor Cuomo has announced to cut CUNY senior colleges, in other words it’s four year colleges, by $11.9 million due to a deficit from last year. For this year, they have a newly proposed cut of  $83.2 million. In total, CUNY senior colleges will have a cut of $95.1 million from their funding. Cuomo also wants to cut CUNY community college funding by $17.5 million. New York City’s Mayor Micheal Bloomberg wants to cut CUNY community college funding by another $35 million. In total the community colleges will have a $52.5 million in cuts. Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg agree that these cuts are needed to close the budget deficits. However, since CUNY is run by the city and not the state, the final decision has not been taken yet.

As a result of these cuts CUNY is facing tuition increases, reductions in financial aid, loss of faculty members, and even cutting entire programs and departments. Between this spring and next fall semester, CUNY raised tuition by 10%. When they cut programs or departments, there will be fewer classes. Since there are fewer classes, the class sizes will increase. For instance, a classroom will have approximately 30 students which is the current situation in many CUNY colleges. These students would have less of their professor’s attention and time. In other words, a student – teacher relationship will not exist if there was one and if not then it will worsen. Some colleges currently already have big class sizes due to the tremendous increase in students enrolling into CUNY colleges than ever before in history. These cuts would increase the classroom size even more. If certain programs are cuts, there would be fewer classes to offer and students would have to wait longer to graduate. Furthermore with less faculty members, students looking for help won’t be able to get the help they need. In fact, many colleges have reduced their spending on library sources and supplies. Many of students rely on these sources to do their school work and this creates a disadvantage for students who rely on it fully. Clearly, students will be paying more but receiving less. In fact, students will be more like the prisoners in the cave who are being kept in the dark because they are getting the education or the tools they need to have a better life. The concept of education is to head students towards the light and into a better future.

How did we get into this budget cut? One misconception that people believe that led us to this crisis is because we are giving too much back to the people who don’t have means. In reality, these people are putting the blame other things and not looking at the facts. One reason for this is the economic inequality that is going on in New York. Records prove that New York State is more unequal in income than any other state in the country. In fact, New York City is even worse. In New York State, the top 1% of income earners collect 35% of all income. In New York City, the top 1% of income earners collect 44% of all income. This inequality is related to the budget crises because these top earners are not paying the same amount of taxes that everyone else would. In fact they are paying less. Another reason is regressive taxation.  Regressive taxation is when they take a larger percentage of taxes from middle or low income people instead of the high. Obviously, it greatly effects people with middle and especially low class even harder. There has been a loss of approximately $16 billion per year since 2006 due to the tax cuts. If they would tax the people with high income, in other words the rich, the state of New York and New York City, wouldn’t be in the deficit it is now. Now the middle class and the low income class have to pay for the consequences and suffer the budget cuts being made on education and health care services, among other things. Clearly this choice shows the priority the people in Albany, the Governor of New York and the Mayor of this city have which is just to protect the interests of the wealthy people in New York.            There is another solution people have thought of that could help out the deficit instead of doing drastic budget cuts. One solution is extending the “Millionaire’s Tax”. This is taxing an additional charge for people on their income who make more than $300,000. This “Millionaire’s Tax” is set to expire in December. But by extending it, it will generate money to help out with the deficit. Another solution is to stop refunding the Stock Transfer Tax. The Stock Transfer Tax became law in New York in 1905. It was used to help pay World War 1, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Currently there is a 5 cent tax per share on transactions of a maximum of $350 per share. The tax instantly rebates 100% back to Wall Street. By stopping the Stock Transfer Tax we could generate billions of dollars for the city and the state.

Continuing with all these budget cuts on CUNY wouldn’t be so ideal and doesn’t benefit students or teachers at all. Many will find it hard to continue being in school due to the money they would have to pay.  Creating a better future for yourself will await even longer. CUNY used to be free until 1975 when budget cuts occurred and they started charging tuition. Currently CUNY is 42% tuition based. Many students attending CUNY come from a working class with middle to low income, majority being Black or Latino. Many students come from a first generation to attend college, like myself, and depend on financial aid or scholarships to be in school.. For the majority of the students, they attend school part time because they work. CUNY gives these students the opportunity of a better future and career. In these times, in order to get a good job you need to have a degree. Students who graduate from CUNY will be helping the economy of New York if they still currently live here, in the long run because they will have better jobs and create a better middle class.  If Governor Cuomo wants to proceed with the budget cuts, rebuilding the middle class will be very hard.

Yes, the senators in Albany and Governor Cuomo have made the decision and the Mayor of New York have the final say in the matter, but there is still time to stop the cuts and let our voices be heard. There are many protests that students have organized and attended to demonstrate their opposition to these budget cuts. As students, we attended college to go towards the light and have a better future for ourselves. We don’t want to be kept in the dark and have misconceptions or illusions about education or situations like this going on. We should inform other people about these cuts being made so they could take a stand on the matter. Like many other things in history for example women or civil rights, it took time and it took a lot of people to demonstrate their position by protesting or civil disobedience to make a difference. Every little action that we do counts and will not be in vain in the long run.

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