Bill Pepitone

Retired New York police officer is among several mayoral candidates who responded to The Envoy’s survey on CUNY policy. The following are Pepitone’s raw answers to the survey. To read the article summarizing and explaining the mayoral candidates’ survey responses, click here.

1. What role do you believe the city and state should play in funding community colleges? Should such colleges be tuition-free?

 As a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised in the city, my candidacy for Mayor of NYC is built around three basic tenets: 1) No Safety, No City 2) No Business, No Economy 3) No Education, No Future.  The City and State should absolutely continue to fund CUNY, but not at the rate they currently are.  Current estimates are that City and State appropriations make up approximately 60% of the funding.  The other 40% comes from student tuitions, grants and fundraising.  Both the city and state should continue to contribute at a rate above their current level and that should be fixed within their city and state budgets and not slashed haphazardly from year to year.  I also believe there is a way to increase additional funding to CUNY and that would be to petition the federal government to:

A) Increase the Pell Grant program.  This would help students with non-tuition related expenses like books and supplies.

B) Expand Title I to include higher education.  This would provide additional funding to CUNY which would allow for the hiring of more full time faculty and more programs, among other benefits. 

As well, a more robust fundraising and development program with an assertive outreach to business and societal leaders who have graduated from CUNY should also be enacted.  This could create an endowment-like program to help with funding.  Public institutions lag far behind private institutions in this area.  That can be corrected with proper support and a well-organized approach to charitable fundraising.  This would also build a sense of school pride and spirit and a better sense of overall connectedness and community among CUNY students and alumni. 

2. What role do you believe the state should play in funding senior colleges? Should such colleges be tuition-free?

We want to encourage our young people to go on to greater levels of education in Master’s, Doctoral and Professional Studies Programs.  Currently, the Excelsior Program only covers two and four year programs.  Post graduate school funding which keeps our best and brightest NYC students right here in NY to finish their higher education would be an ideal situation.  It would take the funding of the city, state and most likely additional funding from the federal government to make this happen.  Such funding would receive my full support.

3. How would you expand job opportunities for CUNY students and graduates?

Within the CUNY system, no funding major exists to support job and workforce placement. CUNY does not require its schools to report their job placement rates. This is unacceptable. In a city like NY, there is no excuse for not connecting our talented students with the professional world that is all around them.  We should be funding job placement programs within CUNY.  I also believe that a robust development and outreach program would not only enhance endowments but would also create opportunity for what I call a City First Internship Program. It would connect city based businesses with CUNY and would encourage such business to offer Internships to CUNY students first, before offering to other schools.  Educational opportunities must be followed by workplace opportunities.

4. Would you expand mental health and wellness funding and services for CUNY students? If so, how?

Given what students have lived through, with the pandemic, remote learning, estrangement from family and friends, social separation, etc., having a resource within CUNY that offers safe, confidential and free counseling services for students is an essential resource that must be made available. 

5. How would you support CUNY students experiencing food and/or housing insecurity?

No student in our city should go hungry or be homeless.  That is unacceptable. Homelessness is a much larger issue, but one that has for far too long been ignored or appeased by one administration after another. It can be ignored no more.  As Mayor I will appoint NYC’s first Homeless Czar and we will make ending the homeless crisis in our city a top priority.  The pandemic has uncovered serious problems within the shelter system.  It needs a complete overhaul. We will build more supportive housing with counselors in place to address mental health issues, alcohol and drug addictions, and other causes of homelessness. The goal is not just to house, but to support and assimilate back into society. 

As for students experiencing food insecurity we should make three meals a day available at no cost to all registered CUNY students who qualify through Dining Services.  These meals would be available in the dining halls and campuses in all schools with CUNY.   This can be done discretely by giving all qualifying students a dining card that they can easily swipe when checking out of the dining hall. 

6. How would you decide who to appoint to the CUNY board of trustees?

I can tell you who I wouldn’t appoint; former politicians and press agents.  Many appointees are the same old, same old, from the same bureaucratic system that gets nothing done, has nothing at stake and has no real connection to CUNY.  Let’s start with appointing people who attended CUNY.  Let’s build on their personal connection to the institution.  Second, let’s appoint people from different walks of life with diverse ideas and experiences.   Third, let’s appoint people who aren’t being appointed because they’re not well connected or someone’s friend.   Let’s get people who are doers and who want to find ways to make CUNY a model of public higher education, who want to fight for its continued funding, and who will stand side by side with students in providing them with the best education, support, and services that they deserve.

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