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April 29, 2008

Smith warns University faces ‘dismantling’ UUP blasts state for freezing SUNY funds

The state Division of Budget’s decision to order the State University of New York to freeze nearly $110 million it collects from students and public hospital patients will dismantle the University, the president of United University Professions warned today. UUP President Phillip H. Smith also announced the union is preparing to launch a major public information and political action campaign to get the funds released, including holding a rally at the state Capitol on Friday, May 2.

“Without these funds, SUNY will not be able to deliver the educational and health care services that students, parents and hospital patients have already paid for,” Smith said. “Courses will be cancelled, class sizes will swell, and the quality of our academic programs and patient care will suffer. This plan will dismantle SUNY.”

The nearly $110 million being withheld is money that SUNY receives from students and their families for tuition, dormitory fees and other payments. It also includes revenues SUNY’s three public hospitals collect directly from patients and their private insurance.

Smith added that freezing SUNY’s revenues will also produce a shortage of funds to pay for residence hall maintenance, security and campus safety. SUNY’s public hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse won’t have the funds available to maintain some vital health care services.

“There’s no good reason to target SUNY this way,” Smith said. “Freezing these funds doesn’t balance the budget. It doesn’t save taxpayers a dime.”

Smith is urging the governor to intervene and allow SUNY to spend the revenues it collects to support services for its students and hospital patients. At the same time, the union will alert the public to the dangers facing SUNY through its statewide media and political action campaign.

Smith noted the $109.4 million spending reduction comes on top of a $38.8 million cut in operating aid in the 2008-09 state budget.

“Withholding SUNY’s revenues just makes a bad situation much worse,” Smith said, noting that SUNY has been underfunded for more than a decade. And with SUNY expecting to enroll its largest freshman class in history, Smith warned, “SUNY will be forced to deny access to thousands of qualified students unless this money is released.”

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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