Defending Public Higher Education – Conference

Dear Commons Community,

Over the course of the past three decades investment in public higher education has declined dramatically. Most American public university systems, such as California, Wisconsin, and Illinois, have experienced serious reductions in their state funding requiring dramatic cutbacks in academic programs and services they provide to their students.

Here at the City University of New York (CUNY), we have gone from a tuition-free system as late as 1976 to one that receives over 45% of its operating budget from student fees and tuition. During this same time, the faculty workforce has been completely transformed. In the past almost all of the courses were taught by full time faculty. Today over 50% of all courses are taught by adjunct faculty. Academic and student support services such as library, financial aid, and counseling have had serious staff reductions. Simultaneously, CUNY enrollments are at an all-time high. In the past ten years, the number of CUNY students has risen from 210,000 to 267,000, the equivalent of three new colleges, but with no commensurate increase in full time faculty or support staff. In the midst of these greater demands and a reduced full time work force, CUNY has lost 330 million dollars, or 15%, of its state funding over the past three years. Finally, present plans are to further privatize or shift the cost of financing CUNY from the state to students. Tuition has increased dramatically over the past decade and an additional $300/year for CUNY students in each of the next five years has just been included in the NY State budget. This regimen of tuition increases is an invisible tax on a student body that is disproportionately poor, 38% of our students’ family income is less than $20,000.

What can we do to reverse these trends? This question has caused a number of faculty and staff at the CUNY Graduate Center to organize this conference around the following questions:
1. What is happening to public higher education across the country and what explains these trends?
2. What is the situation at CUNY presently and what can we expect in the immediate future from state and local policy makers?
3. How can faculty, staff and students begin to turn around these policies of disinvestment in order to provide quality education for all?

Please join us for a day of collective thinking about the challenges facing public higher education. Turn this time of disinvestment into an opportunity to think strategically about mounting a defense of this precious resource, the City University of New York.

The conference is free but we do ask that you register.  For more information, visit the conference website.



  1. I am sharing the leaflets at CCNY. Right now there are no classes because of some jewish holiday. I recommend one of the event organizers create a facebook event to advertise this event.