Student Association Questions Dean Braverman on Budget Deficit, Enrollment

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In her first meeting with the CUNY SPS Student Association, newly appointed Dean Lisa Braverman made her intentions clear: “My number one goal is to improve the student experience in every way. Inside the classroom, outside the classroom, services that you can see. You are the center of our priority.”

Dean Braverman joined the Student Association representatives virtually for their monthly meeting on October 18 to discuss the looming budget deficit, student recruitment, and speeding up budget approval for student clubs.

Budget deficit

The Student Association expressed its concerns about CUNY SPS’ dwindling budget, which decreased in the past couple of years due to excessive spending, Dean Braverman previously told The Kiosk.

Student Association Co-Chairs Lennyn Jacob and Leonard Blades met with the CUNY Office of Fiscal and Business Operations in September, where they were told that CUNY SPS would soon be facing a budget deficit.

“During the meeting, it became clear to Leonard and myself that, based on the numbers, we are expecting to operate at a deficit from fiscal years ‘25 to ‘27,” Jacob said. “That’s three years, that’s kind of a long time.”

The office advised that CUNY SPS could limit the hours and new appointments of college assistants to make up for the missing revenue, Jacob continued. The co-chairs then asked Dean Braverman if she had any solutions to minimize the deficit’s impact on operations.

“The budget situation was, to me, the most shocking piece of information that I’ve received since coming on as the new dean,” Braverman said. “Maybe starting in late 2020 during the pandemic, and up until last year, too many positions were added to SPS staff. It was a bit of a runaway train, actually, and it consumed most of the money in the reserve. They just went on a binge.”

On Dean Braverman’s second day at CUNY SPS, she began setting up a “campaign of cost containment and enrollment growth,” she said. The Dean’s team has not yet looked into cutting hours for college assistants, and Dean Braverman reassured the association that she would avoid impacting student workers in any way. Whenever staff needs to be cut for financial reasons, she explained, part-timers are the ones to go first because they aren’t unionized, but this rule doesn’t necessarily need to be applied to part-time college assistants.

“[The deficit] is not an emergency,” Dean Braverman added. “And as far as I’m concerned, on my term, you should not be impacted by a reduction of services or reduction of instructors, none of that.”

Enrollment and club funds

Another major concern for the Student Association was CUNY SPS’ lower enrollment for graduate students. Dean Braverman previously told The Kiosk that while the School is seeing increases in undergraduate enrollment, it should be seeing the same for the graduate level. The Dean told the association that her solution will center around recruitment via advertising, though she did not go into detail.

“It starts with vibrant marketing that’s targeted to the populations you wish to attract,” she said. “So you need to target your messaging and your marketing towards those more mature learners, not 17- and 18-year-olds.”

Even for individual prospective students, Dean Braverman said she wanted to keep them engaged throughout the application process.

“We want to make inquiring about our programs easy for the public,” she explained. “Send us a message and we want to be responsive. We don’t want to wait days to get back to someone who sent us an email or filled out a form. We’re closing in on our response times so that we immediately get back to people to ask how to help them and engage prospective students in conversations.”

Being so heavily involved with student clubs at CUNY SPS, the Student Association also wanted to know if there would be an increase in club budgets on the horizon. However, Dean Braverman said an increase would not be likely, considering that clubs typically don’t spend their allotted money by a wide margin, with up to tens of thousands of dollars rolling over to the next semester.

Some clubs even donated their extra funds to the CUNY SPS Food Access Initiative, with around $50,000 being donated two years in a row, Associate Director of Student Life Anthony Sweeney said during the meeting. This semester, however, the CUNY SPS club budget approvals are more than a month overdue, meaning that clubs cannot access their funds. Dean Braverman said she was not aware of the delay, but that she would look into it as soon as possible.

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