Higher education and community groups on Friday released a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to not cut spending for New York's colleges and universities amid an historic economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The coalition of 166 organizations include faculty and student organizations. 

The cuts could affect class size and services reduced. 

"Historically – and across the nation – economic downturns result in higher education facing the budget axe," the groups wrote in the letter. "Funding for public colleges drops off, support for the independent college sector dwindles, and students and their families are required to make up the difference, either through higher public college tuition and/or through reductions in financial assistance."

Cuomo has warned of steep reductions in spending, tax increases on the rich and borrowing in order to close multi-year budget gaps if federal aid is not approved. Another COVID stimulus package has remained stalled in Congress, however. 

Calls are growing in New York, meanwhile, for a tax increase on the wealthiest New Yorkers. That is something Cuomo has said he wants to avoid given the mobility of richer people and the concern doing so could further erode the state's tax base. 

But the groups on Friday in the letter called for further investment in higher education including closing the gap in Tuition Assistance Programs and add spending in order to freeze tuition hikes on the campus level.