Funding for Colleges that Promote Economic Mobility: An Economic Justice Issue

An image of Baruch College-City University of New York. It’s one of the best colleges for economic mobility in the United States. It’s also underfunded. Eden, Janine and Jim from New York City / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

As a son of a professor in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, I have heard tales of all ends of the economic spectrum. It’s a system that has an extraordinarily high percentage of its students in some form of economic struggle—it was reported earlier last year that 49% of students went hungry at some point within that month, while 55% of students lacked a safe place to live during the previous year.[1] Yet, in spite of these extraordinary obstacles that so many students in the CUNY system face, CUNY schools dominate economic mobility lists for colleges.[2]

Systems like CUNY in New York or the University of California (UC) system in California, systems that are engines of economic mobility towards the middle class and even the top 20%, should be supported generously because they lift people out of poverty…and yet they’re not.

I’ve heard this happen in New York. The State of New York, which is supposed to provide the bulk of the money for CUNY funding, has been chronically underfunding CUNY for decades. Under New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo (a Democrat), CUNY underfunding has become so bad that colleges like my dad’s have had to make sacrifices such as going without a registrar, cutting class offerings even as the student population grows, raising tuition, and endangering students’ abilities to graduate within four years.[3]

I’ve also read about budget cuts in the University of California (UC) and California State University (Cal State) systems out west. Funding per student in the UC and Cal State systems (systems that are also proven engines of upward economic mobility) have dropped significantly in the past forty years, under both Republican and Democratic governors.[4] And, like in New York, I haven’t heard anything to indicate that the situation is getting any better for public higher education in California.

If anything, the situation is getting worse due to funding cuts during the coronavirus. California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed 10% cuts to the UC and Cal State systems last month,[5] while CUNY is anticipating having to cut thousands of classes and thousands of adjunct and part-time professors.[6]

CUNY, the UC system, and the Cal State system are not the only public university systems being deprived of funding, but these are three notable examples of universities being underfunded in spite of being engines of upward economic mobility.[7] New York and California are not the only places whose leadership has underfunded higher education that promotes economic mobility, but those two states are particularly notable because they have the ability to fully fund or underfund education systems that drive upward economic mobility, which is needed at all times, but even more so during a post-COVID economic recovery.

Underfunding of the CUNYs, UCs, and Cal States of the higher education world must become a prominent economic justice issue. Undermining systems that give students the opportunity to climb out of food and housing stress, and towards a life of economic stability, is economically unjust, not to mention an action that prevents people from seeing the “American Dream” (whatever is left of it) become a reality. It needs to be considered so unjust that it becomes politically dangerous for a politician, Republican or Democrat, to underfund institutions like the ones I’ve mentioned in this piece.

Look at the extent to which the CUNYs, UCs, and Cal States of the world already help people move from food and housing stress and towards the middle and upper class, even with chronic underfunding. It’s truly amazing to think what these institutions, and the students within these institutions, are capable of if they were all funded properly.

If you live in a state that has proposed cuts to higher education, and you’re unsure of whether your legislator is advocating against such cuts, it’s worth giving your state representatives a call.


[1] https://abc7ny.com/education/report-half-of-cuny-students-experienced-hunger-housing-issues/5220690/

[2] What this means is that CUNY lifts a lot of people from the lower class to the middle class: https://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2018/08/20/cuny-again-dominates-chronicles-public-college-social-mobility-rankings/

[3] When it takes more than four years for someone to graduate, that can endanger the state of a student’s financial aid (and drastically increase how much it costs to complete college). For example, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) in New York only goes for four years; if you need a fifth year, then you have no TAP, and the cost of a college education becomes more expensive: https://www.hesc.ny.gov/partner-access/financial-aid-professionals/tap-and-scholarship-resources/tap-coach/95-second-degree.html#:~:text=According%20to%20New%20York%20State,an%20approved%20five%2Dyear%20program.

[4] https://www.ppic.org/publication/higher-education-funding-in-california/ (Note: I don’t know if these measures account for inflation or not; if they don’t, then the decline in funding is even steeper than this piece advertises.)

[5] https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article242741996.html

[6] https://www.psc-cuny.org/SaveLivesJobsCUNY

[7] Or, if you’re really cynical, you might even be led to believe that these institutions are being punished because of how they produce so much economic mobility.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: June 4, 2020

The news in recent days has focused more on the unjust police killing of George Floyd (and its aftermath) than the coronavirus, and understandably so. That being said, as there is an ongoing coronavirus situation in my city and state, I would like to provide my usual weekly update.

On all fronts, everyone in my family is doing physically okay. All of us remain healthy, though allergies definitely continue to be an issue! The other day I had a coughing fit because of those allergies while I was outside, and I was legitimately worried that someone would confront me for the coughing fit! Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

While I already mentioned above that I’m not going to go too much into the situation with the anti-racism protests in New York, it’s worth my mentioning that I don’t live near the center of it all, so the abnormally heavy police presence that some of you may be hearing about from New York doesn’t apply to me. It applies to my friends who live in or near areas where these protests are happening, though.

New York City seems to be continuing to go in the right direction with regards to the coronavirus. We have not started our reopening process yet, but Governor Cuomo has said that if we continue heading in the right direction in New York City, we might be able to begin the reopening process on June 8th. Fingers crossed. Hopefully by this time next week, I will be talking about a New York City that’s beginning a safe reopening process.

People may be wondering how the protests over systemic racism (which I unequivocally support, not that the protests need my support) may affect COVID rates. Based on what I’ve seen on television, it looks like the overwhelming majority of protesters are wearing face masks, which are key in trying to keep the coronavirus from transmitting to others (even if you have it yourself). Since so many of the protesters are wearing face masks, I am not as worried as some about how the protests may affect coronavirus transmission. We’ll see if my lack of worry holds true.

I hope others are doing okay!

Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 7, 2020

I hope that all my readers are doing well, staying healthy, and staying safe.

I continue to remain physically healthy, and so does the rest of my family. We also remain financially healthy, as nobody in my family has lost jobs due to the pandemic. I have also been able to get two things done on the blogging front:

  • I had a guest post on another blog. Namely, I had a guest post on how segregation in a major city is not just a Philadelphia issue (the blogger has written about racial segregation in her home city of Philadelphia, among other things). Thanks to fellow blogger Kayla for publishing this post, and I encourage you all to check out her blog, Dear Destiny!
  • I now have a page on my blog titled “2020 Coronavirus Diary.” On that page, I have links to all of these weekly update posts on the coronavirus in New York, as well as blog posts relevant to the coronavirus. This page was created with the goal of others being able to see what the virus was like in New York City, an epicenter of it.

While I’m happy these things happened, these are really temporary distractions from the current grim reality. Last week, I made a mention of my mom’s calculation that we have sixteen friends, family members of friends, or friends of friends who have died from the coronavirus. Now, I think that count is above twenty.

My state is continuing to experience declines in hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, and deaths. A few weeks ago, we were losing 700-800 New Yorkers a day. Now, we’re losing 200-300 New Yorkers a day. Granted, every life lost is awful, but I present this contrast between 700-800 daily deaths and 200-300 daily deaths to hopefully show others (particularly those who are eager to reopen before hospitalizations and deaths drop down significantly) that these measures, harsh as they may seem, are saving lives.

Hopefully, these positive trends in New York continue in the coming weeks. On May 15th, parts of the state will start to reopen, starting with parts of the state that haven’t been as severely affected by the coronavirus as other parts of the state (so New York City is likely not reopening on May 15th). At that, New York will start with some industries in less affected parts of the state where social distancing can still be practiced in the work that is done (for example, some forms of construction). Given how badly New York has been hit by the coronavirus, Governor Cuomo seems to be (rightly, in my opinion) taking a cautious approach to reopening the state.

So, when you’re hearing stories around this time next week about New York starting to open back up again, that may apply to people in parts of the state, but it likely won’t apply to New York City.

Do you have any outstanding questions about how I’m doing or how New York is doing? If so, feel free to ask in the comments section below!

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 23, 2020

Thankfully, I am getting this post out earlier in the evening this Thursday than I did last Thursday. I’m glad about that because frankly, these updates have not been necessarily the sort of material I would recommend reading right before bed.

Anyway, everyone in my family remains free of COVID-19 symptoms. Some of us (myself included) have struggled a little bit with allergies, but those allergies are no worse for me this spring than they are most other springs. Besides, everyone’s temperature has been normal, and none of us have shown the symptoms of the coronavirus. I should also add this week that my living set of grandparents, who live in a senior living community in a different state, are doing okay. Believe me–I’m relieved myself, given all the horror stories coming out of many senior living communities and nursing homes about COVID-19.

The situation, while not great, has improved somewhat in New York. Here are a few things of note, with regards to New York’s situation:

  • As of the day I’m writing this, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported fewer than 500 deaths in one day for the third consecutive day. I’m not celebrating because daily deaths in the 400-500 range is still horrifically high, but the rate at which deaths were happening was at the 600-800 range last week.
  • Hospitalizations and ICU admissions are down. Once again, there are still a lot of people hospitalized and in the ICU, but given how difficult this situation has been, I will take even incremental improvement.
  • Even though things have improved somewhat, there is a long way to go, and in the assessment of public health officials in New York City and State, we are not ready to do the sort of partial reopening that is happening in parts of the United States.

Speaking of partial reopening, I see that there have been some protests over the stay-at-home restrictions in a number of states. I understand the desire among some to get back to some semblance of normalcy, and the anger in how that return is not happening quickly (or at all yet, in many places), but I beg people to take this pandemic seriously. Everyone in my family at this point knows multiple people who fell seriously ill or died from this. Unless you want that future for yourself, your family, and your friends, please take the social distancing and the stay-at-home restrictions seriously.

P.S. I heard about these protests. Therefore, I “counter-protested” by taking a picture of myself wearing a scarf for protection while taking a short walk for exercise, albeit a walk where I make sure to practice social distancing.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 16, 2020

Let me start by saying that I apologize for the delay in getting this post to you all! I had some evening work to do, and then there were some other things I needed to do after my work was done for the evening. Better late than never, I guess!

Even now, nobody in my family has gotten any coronavirus symptoms. I’ve said this before and I will say it again–I am really wondering whether we’ve had this before without realizing and we have immunity built up, or whether we had coronavirus and were asymptomatic, or what. All of us in my household at this point (myself, my brother, and my parents) personally know multiple people who’ve fallen ill from the coronavirus, and all of us know of people (friends of friends, at minimum) who have died from the coronavirus.

Speaking of deaths, it appears that deaths have flatlined, but they have flatlined at a horrible rate. Each day in the last week (maybe longer), New York’s Governor Cuomo has reported somewhere between 600 and 800 deaths per day. One death is a death too many, but 600-800 deaths per day is just an incomprehensible level of tragedy and grief. I sincerely hope that these numbers go down quickly, and go down soon. I also hope that whenever we do reopen my city, my state, my country, that we don’t do so in a way that results in our ending up with this level of loss of life again, because honestly, it’s too much loss.

On the topic of death (and sorry if this is too much talk of death for some people), I do want to address something that President Trump suggested: that the number of deaths due to the coronavirus in New York City is inflated.[1] The issue at-hand is that New York City recently reported an additional 3,700 or so “probable” deaths from the coronavirus (surging the number of deaths from the coronavirus in New York City past 10,000). These probable deaths are cases where the coronavirus or something similar to the coronavirus is listed on the death certificate as the cause of death, but the dead person never officially got tested for the coronavirus.[2] These are deaths that could probably be attributed to the coronavirus, hence probable deaths.

I know today wasn’t the most fun or hopeful of posts, but I hope my readers are doing okay, and that you all are staying healthy!


[1] https://www.silive.com/coronavirus/2020/04/trump-suggests-nyc-is-padding-coronavirus-death-count-with-presumed-cases.html

[2] https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2020/04/14/new-york-city-coronavirus-death-toll-jumps-by-3-700-after-uncounted-fatalities-are-added-1275931