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SUNY Chancellor Shows Her Mettle, Even as Universities Lose Key Legislative Battle

August 05, 2010

The Chronicle of Higher Education

One year into her tenure as chancellor of the State University of New York, the State Legislature handed Nancy L. Zimpher her first major political defeat, rejecting a package of regulatory changes meant to allow public universities to earn more money outside of state appropriations and operate more efficiently.

The changes Ms. Zimpher championed would have allowed both SUNY and the City University of New York to increase tuition without the Legislature's approval and to charge higher rates to students in some programs and at some campuses. Known as the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, it also would have allowed the university systems to lease property and enter into public-private partnerships without lawmakers' approval and loosened regulations on buying goods and services.

On top of excluding the empowerment act from the budget it passed late Tuesday, the Legislature cut $210-million from the state university budget without approving a tuition increase that could have helped the system offset those cuts. Over the past three budget years, the state system has lost nearly 30 percent of its state appropriations. The city university system took an $84-million cut in the 2011 budget.

While the Legislature's recent actions are a setback for SUNY and the system's chancellor, debate on the empowerment act is far from over. The process also has shown that Ms. Zimpher is a force to be reckoned with, even at the Statehouse, where the political climate has devolved in recent years to a state of near chaos.

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Statement from SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on Future of the Empowerment Act

August 04, 2010

Contact: David Belsky;

Office of Communications
State University of New York
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, August 4, 2010


"Through the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, SUNY brought forward positive, zero-cost solutions during a time of serious fiscal problems. This legislation would strengthen the entire SUNY system while improving our economy and the quality of life for New Yorkers. Unfortunately, the final budget contains none of the Empowerment Act's provisions while enacting over $210 million in additional cuts to SUNY – bringing the three-year total to a 30 percent reduction of our operating budget.


"Not passing the Empowerment Act this budget cycle is a missed opportunity for the State of New York. Above all, we are concerned for SUNY’s students and the state’s economy. The combination of severe cuts now exceeding more than $634 million and no regulatory relief nor enhanced entrepreneurial flexibility will seriously compromise New York’s ability to harness SUNY’s 64 campuses as its greatest educational and economic asset.


"We want to thank SUNY's many supporters who have stood with us during this critical time, including students, faculty, campus presidents, administrators and staff, alumni, trustees and system and campus governance leaders, building trades unions, economic development organizations, business leaders, local, county and federal officials, state legislators, the Governor, and the majority of New Yorkers.


"With this strong support, we remain optimistic that the legislature and its leaders will stay true to its promise and come to a three-way agreement on the Empowerment Act in the very near future.


"Meanwhile, we will continue to advocate for reforms that are essential for fullest access to a quality public higher education and essential for our state’s economic revitalization, and move forward on SUNY's strategic plan, The Power of SUNY. Our students – and all New Yorkers – deserve nothing less."

About the State University of New York

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First SUNY; Then a Budget

August 03, 2010

Albany Times Union Editorial

It's showdown time in a state Legislature that's oblivious to both the urgency of deadlines and public impatience, or worse, with its inability to meet them. Passage of the budget that was due four months ago has become a casualty of a failure to reach final agreement over tuition rates at the state's public universities and colleges.

State University administrators and their allies, most notably Governor Paterson and Sen. William Stachowski, D-Buffalo, want more autonomy for individual schools -- particularly when it comes to setting their own tuition rates. They argue that such independence will lead to greater academic excellence, which in turn will help revive a state where the population is stagnant and the economy is languid.

Others, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, are concerned that the push to create some more elite SUNY campuses will come at the great expense of affordability. They're adamant that the cost of a SUNY or a City University of New York education not grow beyond the means of the poor, the working class and even the middle class.

Which side is right? Both, actually.

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Money for nothing: SUNY and CUNY need to be set free from Albany meddling

Daily News Editorial

Reforms crucial to the future of the State and City Universities of New York have been sucked into the meat grinder of budget negotiations in Albany.

Reports from the sausage factory indicate the Legislature is set to okay tuition hikes for SUNY and CUNY students - while denying the universities powers of self-governing that are critical to fully successful institutions.

Here's the Legislature's idea of reform, as seems included in the package: We promise not to steal the new tuition monies as a way to close the state's budget gap. Aren't they nice?

That's Albany for you. The pols are all too ready to jack up prices but completely allergic to reforms that would make government work better.

SUNY and CUNY need the authority to adjust tuition on their own, without having to run the political gantlet at the Capitol.

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