SUNY and CUNY institutions are pillars of our communities, founded with the crucial mission to make high-quality education accessible to all. This mission has only become more urgent over the past decades, as inequality has increased, and more and more jobs require higher education. Yet over that same period, austerity and disinvestment have undermined SUNY and CUNY’s ability to serve the students and communities who need them most.
Religious and faith leaders: Sign on via the form below to demand that this year's New York State budget reverses that trend and fully funds our CUNY and SUNY system!
To: Gov. Kathy Hochul, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie
Dear Governor Kathy Hochul, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie;
As faith and religious leaders from across New York State, we urge you to reverse decades of harmful disinvestment in our public higher education system by fully funding CUNY and SUNY in the state budget.
SUNY and CUNY institutions are pillars of our communities, founded with the crucial mission to make high-quality education accessible to all. This mission has only become more urgent over the past decades, as inequality has increased, and more and more jobs require higher education. Yet over that same period, austerity and disinvestment have undermined SUNY and CUNY’s ability to serve the students and communities who need them most. Tuition and fees have risen, faculty and staff have been cut, facilities have fallen into disrepair. And, in the second year of a pandemic, there are zero dollars budgeted for critical mission funding for SUNY’s public teaching hospitals, zero dollars set aside for critical elements of the New Deal for CUNY, including mental health counselors. As SUNY and CUNY institutions have been squeezed, it is not only students, patients, faculty and staff that have borne the cost. Our whole state is worse off when higher education becomes a privilege rather than a right.
For generations, CUNY and SUNY have opened doors of opportunity to New Yorkers from all backgrounds and have helped develop great leaders and innovators in education, government, community development, religion, the arts, business, and more. Tragically, rising tuition and disinvestment in CUNY and SUNY began to close these doors, just as the student population became more racially and ethnically diverse.
Our religious traditions call us to advocate for justice, equity, and the well-being of our communities. A vibrant SUNY and CUNY system that makes debt-free higher education accessible to all; meets the academic, social and emotional needs of students; and treats workers with dignity and respect is a necessary ingredient for a just and healthy New York. Therefore, we call on you to allocate over $500 million in additional operating funding above the governor’s executive budget for CUNY and SUNY campuses. Specifically:
$255.8 million in additional funding to provide adequate resources to SUNY campuses and SUNY’s three teaching hospitals, which includes $100 million in additional direct support to SUNY campuses to allow them to attract and retain students by providing support and essential academic services; and $155.8 million to provide critical mission funding for public teaching hospital operations and to account for the debt service, a cost that only the SUNY hospitals bear.
$254 million in additional funding to stabilize and increase support for CUNY colleges in alignment with New Deal for CUNY, including hiring an additional 1,385 full-time faculty ($135.9 million) and 541 mental health counselors and academic advisors ($78.9 million). In addition, these resources would enable a $300 per student enhancement to base aid, and for the State to make 2018-2019 the reference year for the hold harmless provision in the Executive Budget, stabilizing CUNY community colleges.
Stabilize and restore funding for SUNY community colleges by pegging the hold harmless provision to levels based on enrollments in 2018-2019, the academic year prior to the pandemic. This would generate $35.7 million for SUNY community colleges.
Many of us or our families are students and alumni of SUNY and CUNY. All of us live and serve in communities that rely on high-quality, accessible public higher education. We call on you to take decisive action this year to end the disinvestment in SUNY and CUNY and re-prioritize public higher education as a critical part of the fabric of our great state.
Rev. Carl Adair, Zion Episcopal Church, Sunnyside
Rev. Olivia Armstrong, Spiritual Light Ministries, Nichols
Rev. Earl Arnold, Presbyterian Church USA, Owego
Rev. Sara Baron, First United Methodist Church, Schenectady
Rev. Dr. Alan Bentz-Letts, Beloved Earth Community, Riverside Church, New York
Rev. Ashley Birt, Bronx
Rev. Mark Chaffin, Emmanual Baptist Church, Albany
Roshi Shinge Sherry Chayat, Zen Center of Syracuse, Syracuse
Rev. Lane Cobb, Tarrytown
Rev. Peter Cook, New York State Council of Churches, Albany
Rev. Sandy Damhof, Journey United Church of Christ & Protestant Campus Ministry, Albany
Minister Sellers Davis Jr., Second Canaan Baptist Church of Harlem, New York
Sister Catherine Darcy, RSM, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, Latham
Rev. Jennifer DeWeerth, United Church of Christ, Clinton
Rev. Beth DuBois, Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
Rabbi Barat Ellman, New York
Minister Arelis Figueroa, La Iglesia del Pueblo, New York
Rev. Darienne Gagné, North Chatham United Methodist, North Chatham
Rev. Ron Garner, Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church, Wantagh
Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert, Unitarian Universalist, Rochester
Rev. Bruce Gillette, First Presbyterian Union Church, Owego
Rabbi Miriam Grossman, New York
Prof. Christine Japely, New York Quaker, New York
Deborah Little, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, East Setauket
Rev. Liz Kuney, Zen Center of Syracuse, Syracuse
Rev. Michael Livingston, The Riverside Church in the City of New York, New York
Rev. Robin Lostetter, Geneva Presbytery, Owego
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker, Brooklyn
Rev. Lea Matthews, St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church, New York
Rev. E. West McNeill, Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, Schenectady
Rev. Dr. Sally McNichol, New York
Rev. Joe Paparone, Mennonite Church USA, Albany
Rev. Thia Reggio, First Presbyterian Church, Astoria
Rev. Charles Ryu, Morningside United Methodist, New York
Rev. Deacon Ella Roundtree-Davis, Diocese of New York, Bronx
Sister Marlene Ann Roeger, Sisters of St. Joseph
Cantor Lisa B. Segal, Kolot Chayeinu, Brooklyn
Rabbi Joshua Strom, Congregation B’nai Yisrael, Chappaqua
Rev. Amaury Tañón-Santos, Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, Albany
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, New York
Rev. Richard Vosko, Roman Catholic, Clifton Park
Sister Rebecca White, Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph
Rev. Andrew Wilkes, Double Love Experience Church, Brooklyn
Minister Lakisha Williams, Antioch Baptist Church, New York
Sister Susan Wieczynski, Religious Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Ballston Lake
The Rev. Canon Claire Woodley, Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, Hartsdale
Rev. Dustin Wright, Messiah Lutheran Church, Schenectady
(list in formation)