Archive Notes - August 2010

On August 3, the Legislature finally passed the New York State budget. Unfortunately, they failed to pass the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA), while approving millions of dollars in cuts to the State University of New York. The Legislators missed an opportunity to create comprehensive reform that has the potential to be transformational for SUNY and of tremendous service to the state. Rather, their action will further imperil jobs within SUNY and inhibit our ability to provide a quality education to our students, while leaving families to continue to play “tuition roulette” in the future.

State funding for SUNY as a whole has now been slashed by 30 percent over the past three years.  At the same time, the Legislature refused to allow the modest tuition increase approved by the Trustees that would have helped to offset a small fraction of the lost revenue. The preliminary numbers coming from Albany indicate that the appropriation this campus will receive is within the range of scenarios for which we have been planning in our budget process; nevertheless, it is still disappointing.

Arguments from the Legislature in opposition to the PHEEIA have been couched in terms of protecting those least able to pay for tuition increases. The reality is that, over the last half century, the Legislature has systematically pushed more of the cost of education on to the shoulders of those very same students. Additionally, the last time tuition was increased the Legislature took 90% of the increase to fill the State’s budget gap. In truth, the Legislature is loath to give up control over the allocation and appropriation of funds to SUNY.

I want to thank everyone who wrote letters or otherwise helped in the advocacy for the PHEEIA.  Our local chamber of commerce, local business leaders, the Student Government Association, the University Faculty Senate, and many others supported this effort. We need to let them know how appreciative we are of their support in this cause. Chancellor Zimpher has made it clear that the issues raised in the PHEEIA will not go away. Although we have not succeeded in this Legislature, we will continue to press for these needed reforms.

I hope that lawmakers can work together to pass SUNY reform, so that all of our campuses can be given the financial flexibility we need to grow. At SUNY Potsdam, this is more important now than ever, as the College sees increasing enrollments and a record incoming first-year class, at the same time that our operating budget has been drastically reduced and SUNY has not been allowed to raise tuition levels.

Please continue to communicate with your elected officials to seek some legislative assistance for SUNY.