The opening of the spring semester for CUNY comes with great news for students and faculty on all our campuses, and for public higher education in New York State. In January, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a budget plan that will allow CUNY to hire more than 500 new full-time faculty members, an investment that is so pivotal to our long-term strategies that we made it the top priority in the University’s proposed budget request for the next fiscal year.
The funding for new faculty hires — part of the governor’s proposal to increase state support for CUNY and SUNY by more than $1.5 billion over the next five years — marks a seminal advancement of our historical mission to provide high-quality education to New Yorkers of all backgrounds and means. Increasing the number and proportion of full-time faculty has direct bearing on student success and retention, and the benefits are also substantial for faculty.
The state’s investment will bring more stability to many of the courses we offer, especially introductory classes that many times prove the hardest to engage students. Because some of the new full-time hires will likely come from the ranks of current CUNY faculty adjuncts, the new state funding will also create a critical career pathway for some of our dedicated and talented part-time faculty. And it will help us in our ongoing efforts to increase the diversity of our faculty.
An added benefit of the increase in full-time faculty is that it will bolster our academic departments throughout the University, whose faculty have made numerous and important contributions in their respective fields. It will reduce the amount of time department chairs need to spend on hiring, evaluations and related administrative tasks, freeing them to focus more broadly on creating a more collegial departmental life, building curricula and improving courses and advising to better serve their students’ needs.
An Unprecedented Approach
One of the reasons I am so excited is that many of the new full-time faculty will be assigned to entry-level and gateway courses with high numbers of students who struggle. These courses are often taught by part-time faculty who often don’t get the chance to teach a particular class over successive semesters. Full-time faculty have the benefit of more time to work with students and to develop advisory and mentoring relationships that can make the difference between a student who perseveres to overcome obstacles and one who gives up and drops out. Full-time faculty also have time to revise and improve their courses, refine their teaching methods over time and develop new offerings to serve our students.
We also won’t simply be hiring people and sending them into classrooms. Instead, from the moment the first group of new faculty join us they will be invited to participate in CUNY’s Innovative Teaching Academy, which we began in 2020 to improve teaching and encourage faculty throughout the University to adopt proven pedagogy and high-impact best practices. It’s the kind of professional development for faculty that I have long believed is sorely lacking in higher education. This onboarding of such a large group of new faculty is unprecedented at CUNY, and very rare in general.
Moving forward, continued investments will further solidify the University’s research programs, scholarship and creative work, and targeted hires in the sciences will grow and support the University’s research pipeline and support for STEM students.
Universities across the country, especially public ones, have been contending with their over-reliance on part-time teachers for many years. It’s been a particularly important issue for us at CUNY, and for me personally since I assumed leadership of the University in 2019. Governor Hochul’s budget marks a turning point in our efforts, a major vote of confidence for public higher education in New York and an investment in the success of our students that will pay dividends for years to come.
Félix V. Matos Rodríguez is the chancellor of The City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban public university system in the United States