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October 21, 2009

Smith delivers testimony in legislative hearing
UUP President: Reverse $90 million cut to SUNY

ALBANY – The latest $90 million budget cut to the State University of New York was, by far, the largest among all the state-funded agencies and represents about 18 percent of the $500 million Gov. Paterson imposed on all state agencies in midyear cuts he made earlier this month. That’s just too big a burden and students are paying the price, said United University Professions president Phillip H. Smith.

“There is no reasonable justification to place such an undue burden on one state agency,” Smith told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. “In 1990, the state funded 75 percent of the University’s operating budget, with the remaining 25 percent financed by students and their families. After the governor’s latest reduction, the students are now financing more than half of SUNY’s operating budget,” Smith said.

Over the past 18 months, state support for SUNY has dropped by an astonishing $410 million, and Smith told lawmakers during today’s legislative hearing that students are paying the consequences of such severe cuts in the way of frequent course cancellations, overcrowded classes, delayed graduations and tens of thousands of rejected admission applications.

“In a sense, we have lost sight of the role SUNY was intended to play in the graduation of a wide-range of productive students who can contribute to the state’s overall economy,” Smith testified. “It is particularly unfortunate that these cuts have occurred during this economic recession, when educating or retraining New York’s workforce is particularly imperative, and at a time when college affordability has become an issue of statewide importance.”

SUNY’s three hospitals and four health science centers are also struggling according to Smith, who said that recent Medicaid cuts and reductions in the state subsidy have brought them to the breaking point.

“The quality of health care provided by these institutions is already at great risk, and further reductions in Medicaid support will undermine their ability to serve the needy,” Smith warned.

He urged the legislators to reverse the $90 million reduction for SUNY and to protect SUNY’s hospitals from further Medicaid cuts.

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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