Challenger Nixon Blasts Cuomo’s Excelsior Program and Calls for “Full Funding” of SUNY and CUNY



Joining a “Defend SUNY” rally today with students, faculty, and staff at the SUNY New Paltz campus Cynthia Nixon the Democratic candidate for governor challenging Andrew Cuomo called for full funding and “fair salaries.”

Students, faculty, and staff at SUNY New Paltz have long criticized the lack of state funding for public colleges and universities in New York. They say that faculty and professional staff have been without a new union contract for 21 months and are paid wages that are 20 percent below the nationwide average for four-year public universities.

“Govenor Cuomo has shifted the burden of funding SUNY and CUNY onto the backs of students and working families across our state, and at the cost of fair salaries for university faculty and professional staff,” Nixon said. “State aid for SUNY and CUNY campuses has been effectively frozen since 2011. New York’s public universities are now funded mostly by rising tuition and falling salaries because he refuses to make millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.”

“I am also calling on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to enact maintenance of effort legislation for SUNY and CUNY,” she added. “This would require the state to maintain its proportional share of funding for SUNY and CUNY. Cuomo has twice vetoed MOE legislation after he original committed to enact a MOE provision. It’s time to make sure New York’s public colleges and universities have a steady stream of funding.”

The MOE, or Maintenance of Effort, would require the state to pay for operational costs, including building renovations, energy and inflation. Faculty and professional staff at SUNY New Paltz have been protesting outside the administration building over the past few weeks demanding that Governor Cuomo settle a new statewide union contract with faculty and professionals.

Nixon also criticized Governor Cuomo’s “free college” program known as the Excelsior Scholarship, calling it “smoke and mirrors” rather than an actual solution to crushing student debt. About 23,000 out of 596,764 SUNY and CUNY students — or 3.7% of the student body — received the Excelsior in fall 2017.  

“The Excelsior Program which was supposed to be college for all is actually college for 3%, and only if that 3% go full time, don’t need any financial assistance with room, board, transportation or books, and maintain a 3.5 GPA,” Nixon said. “And if they don’t, they are on the hook for paying the money back in full. Hardly college for all.’”



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