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Major Employers, Unions Announce Support for Empowerment Act

June 24, 2010

AlbanyState University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today announced the support of 24 major corporations, associations, and the Building and Construction Trades Council for SUNY’s new strategic plan, The Power of SUNY, and the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.

In an open letter to the New York State Legislature, the employers and unions wrote that “If there were ever a time for New York State to embrace bold new ideas and creative solutions, it is this time, with this Chancellor and this SUNY.” A full copy of the letter is available here.

“The time for action for SUNY is now,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act will create jobs, reinvigorate our state’s economy, and allow our state university system to be nationally competitive – all at zero cost to taxpayers. The support of the business and labor community is further proof that public higher education can, and will, be the driver for a knowledge-based, 21st century economy.”

"We thank New York's top employers and labor unions for this strong message of support of the Empowerment Act and The Power of SUNY," said Chancellor Zimpher. "These leaders understand better than anyone that we need bold action to spark the state's economic recovery, and they recognize SUNY's capacity to drive innovation, growth and a better quality of life in our communities."

In addition to the New York Building and Construction Trades Council, the letter is signed by: BBL Construction Services, Center for Economic Growth, Central Hudson Energy Group, Columbia Development Companies, Delaware North Companies, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, First Niagara, Frank Murken Products, IBM Corporation, Independent Health, Kaleida Health, Eastman Kodak, Long Island Association, Long Island Contractors’ Association, MOOG, M&T Bank, Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades, New York State Business Council, The Pike Company, SEFCU, SIRGA Advanced Biopharma, WelchAllyn, and Xerox.

Full News Release

Autonomy Would Make SUNY Better

June 23, 2010

Newsday Editorial

In assembling the multiple moving parts of the state budget puzzle, the legislature has a chance to do what it should have done long ago: Unshackle SUNY.

Gov. David A. Paterson and the Senate have now reached agreement on much of Paterson's proposal to let the State University of New York set its own tuition rates, indexed to inflation; to let SUNY keep the increased revenue, which has often been siphoned away for other purposes; and to loosen regulatory restraints. That leaves it up to the Assembly.

This year, with the energetic support of a new SUNY chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, Paterson offered an immensely ambitious bill called the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. It's not just about tuition, but that's the part of the bill that most galls the Assembly.

Full Story

Let Students Speak for Themselves on Tuition

Buffalo News - Letter to the Editor

By Kyle Hill

In a letter submitted by Edward Herman, chairman of the United University Professions advocacy committee of the University at Buffalo, he insists that the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act is not in the students’ best interests. However, in March, the State University of New York Student Assembly, which represents all 64 campuses of the SUNY system, endorsed the act in a unanimous vote and many SUNY Student Government Associations followed and approved of the act individually.

What students find most appealing about this piece of legislation is that it will remove tuition from the political process by allowing the SUNY board of trustees to set tuition, not the Legislature. Additionally, this will allow SUNY to keep all tuition dollars, instead of it going to aid the state deficit.

Many people do not realize that Albany actually collects our tuition dollars and then allocates the sum to SUNY. In 2008, however, when the Legislature raised SUNY tuition by $620, only 10 percent of the increase ever made it back to students and campuses due to budget cuts.

The mission of SUNY and the board of trustees is to provide quality, affordable and accessible education; the same cannot be said for the State Legislature, which has voted for $424 million in budget cuts and tuition sweeps to SUNY over the last two years.

Some argue that the Empowerment Act will lead to the privatization of SUNY, but this tremendous reduction in state aid is the real privatization of the SUNY system.

In regard to the actual process of changing tuition, UUP’s facts are no longer correct. The new legislation, agreed upon by Gov. David A. Paterson and the State Senate, states that tuition can be raised 1.5 times — not 2.5 times as stated by UUP — the five-year rolling average of the Higher Education Prices Index, which is currently 3.5 percent. Thus tuition increases would be closer to 5.25 percent, not 9 percent.

To address the concern of a differential tuition, which would increase tuition marginally based on which program a student chooses to study, the SUNY Student Assembly weighed the options and believes it will be much more beneficial than harmful. We understand that some programs are simply more expensive to operate compared to others, and believe it will be better in the end to pay more money rather than lower the quality of education or eliminate the program all together. SUNY has also agreed to take care of those students who cannot afford the extra tuition with SUNY aid, which will cover the difference and waive loans if the student chooses to work in public service upon graduation.

New Yorkers deserve a public university system that meets SUNY’s mission of affordability, quality and accessibility. Abolishing programs because of lack of funds does nothing to improve access to quality and affordable higher education.

Kyle J. Hill is director of Government Relations for the SUNY Student Assembly.

Lawmakers Debate Letting SUNY Schools Set Tuition

June 15, 2010


As the presidents of Long Island's five SUNY colleges anxiously work phones to Albany, the State Legislature is debating Gov. David A. Paterson's proposal to allow public campuses to set their own tuitions and keep more of that money.

The legislation would allow Stony Brook University and other large research campuses to break free from the state's one-size-fits-all tuition and charge more than smaller schools lacking major research facilities.

The State Senate appears close to passing the measure as part of the budget package, while the Assembly appears reluctant, Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said Monday. LaValle, who spent 30 years chairing the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now the ranking Republican, opposes the bill.

Paterson and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher say the initiative would allow SUNY to compete better with other leading state systems such as North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The legislation has divided local campuses, with top administrators ardently supporting the changes while some student leaders and professional unions object.

Full Story

Pass SUNY Reform

Buffalo News Editorial

As Albany approaches its piecemeal adoption of the 2010-11 state budget, the twin fates of SUNY and the Western New York economy hang in the balance. Prospects for passage of a bill that would give the SUNY system greater independence appear iffy, but that worrisome fact merely calls for supporters to increase their efforts on behalf of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.

The measure, which would allow campuses to set their own tuition rates and encourage partnerships with private companies, has broad support around the state but runs into a hotbed of opposition in one key constituency: Democrats in the State Assembly.

Opposition is centered downstate, where members say they fear the change will make a SUNY education too expensive for constituents who cannot afford anything but the state's public university system. We doubt that is true, but even if it is a legitimate issue, legitimate issues can have solutions that don't require abandoning an entire reform package.

Full Story

SUNY's Fate Hinges on Vote in the Assembly

June 14, 2010

Buffalo News

ALBANY — It’s make or break time for the state university system and its sweeping plans to untether itself from Albany.

The University at Buffalo was the first to push the initiative, which would change how tuition levels are set, permit individual campuses to keep more of the tuition money and encourage partnerships with private companies.

State budget talks appear to be entering a final phase this coming week, and whether this vision lives or dies hinges on those negotiations.

One thing is certain: The fate of the university plan is in the hands of the Assembly, where downstate and upstate Democrats are fighting each other over a measure that State University of New York officials say is desperately needed to bolster both the reputation and educational offerings of the nation’s largest university system.

Full Story

Report: Next Governor Needs to be Part Economic Developer

June 10, 2010

Business Review (Albany)

The next governor of New York is going to have to focus on economic development “almost on a daily level,” according to a new report released by the New York State Economic Development Council.

“I know it sounds so very obvious, but you can have all the great economic development programs in the world, but if you don’t have great leadership they’re not going to be very effective,” said Brian McMahon, the council’s director. The council has more than 900 members, including public- and private-sector economic development organizations.

The report, “Leadership for Jobs,” was compiled and written during the past two months. It was sent to gubernatorial candidates Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Rick Lazio yesterday.

Read more: Report: Next NY governor needs to be part economic developer - The Business Review (Albany)

Chancellor Zimpher's Anniversary Note to Colleagues

June 01, 2010

A Message from Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher to SUNY faculty and staff
June 1, 2010
Dear Colleagues:
One year ago today, I began my job as Chancellor of The State University of New York. What a journey it has been! From visiting every one of our campuses to meeting many of you throughout the strategic planning process, and even cultivating a "New York state of mind," I have learned a great deal in these 365 days.
Above all, I have learned that SUNY, while already providing access to an excellent education for New Yorkers and students from across the nation and around the globe, has truly astounding potential to do much, much more. It is this vast universe of possibility that makes this job both very challenging and incredibly exciting.
There's no question that we have many challenges before us. We have already put in tremendous effort to develop The Power of SUNY, our roadmap for the next five years and beyond. We will be working hard to bring those “Big Ideas” to life. And the backdrop of New York’s economic crisis has created a new set of hurdles. But with your talent, expertise and commitment, we have the capacity to navigate these challenges and serve as a catalyst for economic revitalization – and a better future for our communities.
I've said many times that The Power of SUNY is our roadmap and that the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act is our license to drive. But you – the faculty and staff of this great university system – are the drivers behind the wheel. Every day, you do the work that makes it possible to provide a world-class education to our 465,000 students and to create economic opportunities across New York.
In the past year, we have come together as a united SUNY, eager to take on the world. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to lead these efforts, and as we travel down this path, I'm confident we will reach our goals. 
Together, we are The Power of SUNY!

Collaboration Can Brighten Students' Future

Democrat & Chronicle

Op-Ed by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher

One year ago, I came to my leadership role at the State University of New York dedicated to improving education for all learners.  My first order of business as Chancellor was a statewide tour to visit each one of SUNY’s 64 campuses, which gave me an opportunity to see the tremendous assets and opportunities in new York's cities and regions.  

However, many parts of the state face significant challenges, and nowhere are those challenges felt as acutely as in our schools.  Statewide, nearly three in 10 students fail to graduate from high school in four years, and only six in 10 students graduate with a Regents Diploma – a critical indicator of college readiness.  These numbers are even lower in urban areas, where fewer than half of the students graduate at the end of four years – and fewer than one-third graduate with a Regents diploma. At the same time, schools are plagued with serious fiscal constraints, teacher lay-offs, and damaging cuts to core programs.

As the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education, SUNY is in a unique position to lead change. And we have a significant stake in what happens in our schools. Not only does SUNY prepare more teachers than any institution in New York – about 5,000 each year – but we enroll the students who graduate from schools across the state, many of whom arrive without the preparation necessary to succeed in college.

Addressing these challenges and charting a new course for the future of Rochester and our state will require innovative strategies and strong collaboration among partners, and SUNY is taking a leadership role in that effort.

Last month, I came to Monroe Community College to launch our new systemwide strategic plan called The Power of SUNY – a plan that is riveted on driving New York's economic recovery and enhancing the quality of life in our communities.  One of our strategic priorities is the creation of a seamless education pipeline, to improve and expand educational opportunities for all New Yorkers. 

To reach this goal, SUNY is proposing regional “cradle to career” collaboratives with our partners across Pre-K-12, business and industry and community organizations to improve student success and strengthen the alignment between education and workforce needs. 

SUNY is also developing a system-wide cooperative education initiative called SUNYWorks to provide students with salaried, credit-worthy career experiences while they complete degrees, leading to job opportunities upon graduation.

And since quality teachers are pivotal to student success across the education pipeline, SUNY will carry out its responsibility to transform teacher preparation and impact learning through systemic, sustainable and evidence-based reforms, like the new SUNY Urban-Rural Teacher Corps initiative. 

With eight SUNY institutions located in greater Rochester and adjacent counties, SUNY can leverage its substantial resources to move the dial on teacher preparation and student success in this region. By joining forces with local schools and other community stakeholders on this ambitious agenda, we have the power to meet our goal of economic revitalization and a strong future for our students and our communities.

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