Former NYC Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia is among several mayoral candidates who responded to The Envoy’s survey on CUNY policy. The following are Garcia’s raw answers to the survey. To read the article about all of 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?
The City and the State must both play a role to fund community colleges. As the City’s budget situation improves, I would like to first reduce tuition at CUNY for students at community colleges at students that need it the most. CUNY already serves a significant number of students with free tuition, but we need to also make sure those students have resources and support for books, accommodations, food and daily necessities. It’s important that we keep CUNY affordable but also that the City’s funding supports living wage jobs for the faculty and staff that work at CUNY. With the difficult fiscal situation, we also need to make sure we are prioritizing funding for classrooms and teachers–not administrative or central executive staff.
2. What role do you believe the state should play in funding senior colleges? Should such colleges be tuition-free?
The State should continue funding senior colleges and increase its investment given the significant contributions of CUNY faculty, employees, students, and alumni. CUNY has a proud history of providing opportunity for New Yorkers of all means to prepare for a successful future. In this tough economic crisis, our recovery will depend on getting New Yorkers back in the classroom.
3. How would you expand job opportunities for CUNY students and graduates?
As mayor, I will work to ensure our public education system has job pipelines for graduates into full time employment in both the public and private sectors. Particularly, we should focus on creating a pipeline from CUNY colleges into a green economy, such as clean energy and building systems. We can’t rely on companies to use their CSR budgets to provide a couple internships and call it a day. We need to work with the public sector to provide real jobs by engaging students in apprenticeship programs that lead to careers. I would engage employers in an innovative, partnership-based approach that asks them to participate in curriculum development and training, so that companies have an incentive to commit to hiring CUNY grads who are best prepared for the jobs they offer. We need to make sure our degree programs are aligned with the needs of the 21st century economy, and the best way to do this is to get employer input.
4. Would you expand mental health and wellness funding and services for CUNY students? If so, how?
I would work with CUNY to develop an integrated system-wide mental health service, expanding upon the current wellness centers on campuses. Currently, counseling is offered on a short term basis at no cost, but it’s not an integrated system.
However, I also support more investment in H+H virtual care and telehealth services to improve access to mental health care services across the City. We can adapt learnings from the successful Test and Trace models to send micro teams into communities for public health screenings and services, and connect people with virtual care and wraparound services. Mental health is an important priority for me in the first year of my administration as we navigate the long term impact of the pandemic–especially for students that have lost caregivers or suffer the long term effects of COVID19.
5. How would you support CUNY students experiencing food and/or housing insecurity?
No New Yorker should worry about going hungry or where they will sleep at night. Without confidence that these basic things can be met, students will have trouble learning and taking advantage of the incredible opportunities CUNY offers.
As the COVID-19 Food Czar, it was my job to make sure New Yorkers did not go hungry in the pandemic. I stood up an operation that successfully provided over 1 million meals per day to New Yorkers all across the City. What I learned was that you need to bring services to where people are.
We also need to advocate for the permanent extension of SNAP benefits for college students. The temporary expansion of SNAP eligibility to include students that meet certain criteria should be adopted as permanent policy–it is not logical that students are excluded from this program. As a City, we can and must support New Yorkers who are not eligible for SNAP with voucher programs that provide choice and dignity, so that hardworking students can get a hot meal of their choice. I would also work with CUNY to expand an emergency grants program for students in crisis–a critical piece of support for college retention.
On housing, I will make it easier to build more housing, especially affordable housing, throughout the city and focus on eviction prevention and rental assistance rather than shelters. We will also create a dedicated outreach unit to find housing solutions for CUNY students to move them into more stable living situations.
Lastly, food and housing are two pieces of a larger pie. There is a planned pilot tracking the impact of free MetroCards on college retention for CUNY community college students. If outcomes show a positive correlation, I would consider expanding it or making these students are eligible for reduced fare cards.
6. How would you decide who to appoint to the CUNY board of trustees?
First, I would look for people that care deeply about public education. Board members should specifically have higher education administrative experience and understand the complications of the system. Their goals should be to keep CUNY at the cutting edge of research, technology, and teaching, while making it as accessible as possible. I think it’s important that they have a degree from the CUNY system. In short, they can’t just be a political appointee.