Fred Kowal: Making SUNY Whole

Mar 5, 2015

Let me start by saying that United University Professions would like nothing more than to work with Gov. Cuomo to ensure that SUNY continues to deliver an accessible, affordable, quality education to New York’s students.

But it seems the governor has other ideas, announced in January as part of his Opportunity Agenda and proposed Executive Budget. I believe it’s a missed opportunity agenda.

His plan is wrong for students, working families and for the thousands who depend on SUNY for a quality education they can afford.

We believe it’s wrong for the hundreds of thousands of patients who depend on SUNY’s state-run hospitals. It’s wrong for the communities that host SUNY campuses and the thousands of employees who work there.

It’s wrong for New York.

It starts with a miniscule 1 percent increase for SUNY campuses. That’s bad news for students, who account for 63 percent of SUNY’s operating budget revenue through tuition and fees. The state covers the rest.

When more than half of SUNY’s funding comes from students, that’s not a public university. That’s unfair and it’s not right.

After millions in state funding cuts, SUNY must be made whole.

SUNY needs a permanent endowment as a long-term funding source. And the state must pay its fair share of SUNY’s funding. A college degree isn’t a choice these days. It’s a necessity, like a high school diploma was decades ago.

To make matters worse, the governor wants a new performance-based funding system that we believe would pit campuses against each other for what little state aid there is. Low-income students may be overlooked for students that administrators think have a better chance of graduating in four years.

Our plan, BOSS, or Bringing Opportunities for Student Success, would reward campuses that hire more full-time faculty and staff, focus on diversity and support a pre-freshman summer program through SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program.

Regarding EOP, the governor once again wants to cut $1.3 million from this success story. The EOP is a beacon for low-income, high-needs students who have the smarts but lack the means for a college education. Last year, 30,000 students applied for the program’s 2,500 openings.

The governor’s proposed student debt forgiveness program is also flawed. It does nothing to help nearly 3 million New Yorkers struggling to pay more than $70 billion (with a “b”) in student loans.

Our “SUNY Student Loan Refinancing Program” would be open to all SUNY graduates with state or federal student loans as of 2008. To cut interest rates, we’d use part of the settlements corrupt banks were forced to pay, thanks to the hard work of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

But that’s not all. A proposal in the governor’s Executive Budget would tie the closure of teacher preparation programs at public or private college campuses to students’ test scores. Tenure protections for new teachers are also in jeopardy. 

And he wants to cut $19 million from the state’s teaching hospitals and put aside $700 million for health care in Kings County. These taxpayer dollars would be administered at the discretion of the state’s commissioner of health. No competitive bidding. No requests for proposals. No transparency.

New York deserves far better than this.

Governor, come to our college campuses and our hospitals and see what we do. Listen to those that we serve, teach and heal. With the Legislature, we have the opportunity to build a better New York.

Let’s do what’s right for our students, our patients and for SUNY.

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.  

 

 

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