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ALBANY -- For the fourth straight year, New York's public higher education system took a big hit in the budget.
The Senate passed a budget just before midnight that would cut more than $300 million from state and New York City universities and community colleges. The Assembly continued to debate the budget into the early hours this morning.
Among the cuts are $115 million from SUNY aid, $48 million from three teaching hospitals, including Stony Brook University, and more than $33 million from state and New York City community colleges.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign the bill Thursday.
With this round of cuts, SUNY officials say the system has lost more than $1.4 billion in state funding since 2008. Wednesday, Morgan Hook, a spokesman for SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, said the budget "is certainly painful, but forces New York to live within its means."
Hook said Zimpher and college presidents were still determining "how we will proceed with managing another reduction in state support."
Cuomo proposed even deeper cuts, slashing all $135 million in state aid to teaching hospitals, including the entire $55-million subsidy to Stony Brook University Medical Center.
Cuomo wanted more than $46 million taken from community colleges and $5 million from the Long Island Veterans Home.
ALBANY -- Trustees of the State University of New York took a significant step Tuesday toward putting in place a five-year plan that would include gradual tuition increases instead of leaving the issue to the whims of lawmakers.
Trustees authorized SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to negotiate a five-year plan with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators. A key provision is that tuition be kept in a "locked box," preventing lawmakers from undercutting tuition increases by sweeping other SUNY operational funds into the state's general fund during tough economic times. The tuition policy would apply only to New York residents.
Cuomo said the concept had "a lot of merit," but said he wanted to review it before making a commitment. But he also said that leaving tuition to the annual "political process" of the state budget has not served SUNY or students well.
"A political body doing this on a year-to-year basis tends not to do it well," the governor said.
In its resolution, SUNY trustees noted that the current process leads to wild tuition swings for students -- years of no increases followed by, for example, a 43 percent jump in 1991-92. The last increase occurred in 2009-10, when tuition was pushed to its current level ($4,970 for in-state residents, per semester).
ALBANY -- Tuition at state university campuses would rise in annual "predictable" levels over the next five years under a resolution adopted unanimously Tuesday by the system's board of trustees.
But the request must be approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who praised the idea, and the State Legislature, where it is certain to run into opposition.
Key lawmakers suggested the plan was dead even before the State University of New York board met Tuesday in Binghamton. The plan does not set any specific tuition targets or increases, on any set inflation-based index as officials had proposed in the past, but gives the chancellor the freedom to negotiate a five-year plan with Cuomo and lawmakers.
Even in this tough fiscal time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to zero out state funding for Stony Brook University Medical Center, along with the State University of New York's two other public hospitals, is hard to justify.
The governor's proposed hits include $55 million at Stony Brook, $35 million at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and $37.3 million at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. That money helps these public teaching hospitals provide the kind of services that other hospitals find too expensive to offer -- though it doesn't come close to covering all the costs of these services. Stony Brook calculates that they cost $90 million, compared with the state's funding of $55 million.
What are these costly services? At Stony Brook, there's the trauma unit, for example, and the burn unit, which serves volunteer firefighters and those whose lives they save. If that burn unit were to close, there's nothing operating in Suffolk that could replace it. The same is true of the child psychiatric unit, which offers a wider array of services to mentally ill children and their families than other programs in Suffolk. And the hospital, like any public hospital, also serves the poor. Stony Brook is the only public hospital in all of Suffolk County.
Similarly, Upstate is the public hospital for a vast swath of New York, from Canada to Pennsylvania, the trauma center for 17 counties, the burn center for 34 counties, the poison control center for 55 counties.
If these cuts make it into the final budget, the hospitals' executives would have to make tough choices to close entire units. Worse, in the case of Upstate, the hospital would run out of cash in early 2012.
Syracuse Post-Standard Editorial
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State address in January, described his vision of the State University of New York as the engine that will drive our economy into the 21st century.
A month later, Cuomo threatened to drive SUNY into the ditch with an executive budget proposal that cuts its budget by $362 million. SUNY gets $3.3 billion of its total budget of $11 billion from the state. If Cuomo’s budget stands, the state university system will have lost $1.5 billion in state funding over the past four years. When you add in mandatory costs that keep on rising, SUNY figures it will have lost 30 percent of its state support.
SUNY’s enrollment, meanwhile, has grown 13.3 percent since the 2005-06 academic year. Forty percent of all graduating and college-bound high school students in New York attend one of its 64 campuses — and for good reason. SUNY schools regularly are rated tops in terms of educational quality, diversity and value.
Indeed, a SUNY education is a real bargain — some would say too much of one.
Democrat & Chronicle
Op-Ed by SUNY Brockport President John Halstead
With only a few weeks until the April 1 deadline to pass a state budget, there are almost as many opinions on what should be done as there are people in this great state.
I applaud Gov. Andrew Cuomo for taking a hard stance on the state's budget deficit and making tough decisions. SUNY is willing to do its part and we have, as evidenced by the $1.5 billion in cuts the system has seen to its operating budget since 2007-08.
At The College at Brockport, we have seen approximately $9.5 million in state reductions during the past three years. We are facing a structural deficit of $4.5 million-$5 million and are taking immediate steps to enact short- and long-term solutions.
We have passed the tipping point where our future will include reduced services to students, larger classes, fewer course offerings, and potentially longer time to graduation, a development no one wants to see happen.
By Julie Gondar, SUNY Student Assembly President
For students at the State University of New York and their families, a worst-case scenario is looming and becoming more likely every day: A massive spike in tuition resulting from years of neglect that finally ends in action deemed necessary to support a weakened public higher education system.
It's almost predictable: The Legislature, fearing political fallout, fails to raise tuition year after year, while cutting state support so dramatically that SUNY's mission is compromised. Then, when things get so bad, they "save" SUNY with a big tuition increase.
There is a better way that has been endorsed by the SUNY Student Assembly and by local campuses — a tuition plan that allows for fair, predictable increases annually so SUNY can grow and thrive, and students and their families can plan ahead.
SUNY students advocating for a plan that would result in any kind of tuition increase may come as a surprise to some, but not if you have paid attention to what has been happening on our campuses. In the wake of $1.1 billion in cuts over the last three years, campuses have been forced to phase out programs. Geneseo eliminated its communication disorders program, New Paltz cut its nursing program and Albany scaled back several languages. With the cuts proposed this year, SUNY will have to absorb nearly $400 million more in cuts, for a four-year total negative impact of $1.5 billion. That means even more cutbacks on campuses.
Hornell Evening Tribune
Alfred, N.Y. —
When was the last time college students supported a tuition increase?
In what might be a first, students at Alfred State College are behind the idea of a rational tuition plan allowing families to prepare for tuition hikes, said Student Senate President AJ LaMere.
“We know the value of a SUNY education. We see the merit in the programs, and it’s worth every penny,” said LaMere.
LaMere met with the student and Greek senates and support was widespread. The plan “was predictable and would allow students to plan for anything thrown at us,” he said.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher advocated a plan scheduling tuition increases in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 10 percent cut to funding for SUNY schools. The slash would eliminate over $1 million from the Alfred State budget, said President John Anderson.
Zimpher’s plan calls for a “fair, predictable, and responsible” tuition policy that would help students and families plan for tuition jumps over a five year period.
Both LaMere and Anderson said an annual tuition increase of a couple hundred dollars would reduce the damage budget cuts would inflict on the college.
Times Union Editorial