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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
Lisi’s cell number: (518) 944-9528


January 27, 2010

UUP: SUNY students can’t tolerate further cuts

The students of the State University of New York cannot withstand another reduction in state support, and the governor’s proposal to deregulate some major aspects of SUNY make no sense, according to the leader of United University Professions, the union that represents academic and professional faculty at SUNY.

UUP President Phillip H. Smith told lawmakers during a joint legislative hearing on the governor’s Executive Budget that SUNY faces the loss of 25 percent of its annual operating budget. If the governor’s spending plan is enacted, Smith said SUNY would have lost $528 million in state support over a two-year period. SUNY’s percentage loss of state funding is significantly higher than for any other state agency or functional area, and students are the ones who are suffering.

“If the $118 million reduction proposed in the Executive Budget is enacted, SUNY will have $80 million less in state support than it did in 1990,” Smith said. “This is an amazing and very troubling statistic since enrollment grew by more than 40,000 students over that time frame.”

Smith told legislators that SUNY students are already paying the price of prior funding reductions, in the form of course cancellations, larger class sizes, fewer full-time faculty, and more students unable to graduate on time.

“SUNY is already turning away tens of thousands of qualified high school students,” he said. “If further spending reductions are enacted, we can only expect that even larger numbers of potential students will be disappointed next year.”

Smith also said UUP has serious reservations about the governor’s proposed Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which would allow SUNY campuses to raise tuition without legislative approval and relax restrictions when it comes to campuses consummating contracts, leases, partnerships and joint ventures. He warned that students would likely face 10 percent tuition increases next year and under terms of a differential proposal, campuses could raise tuition far above that percentage.

“This is as far removed as you can get from having a rational and predictable tuition policy,” Smith said.

Overall, Smith said the proposal would greatly diminish the accountability for SUNY’s spending decisions.

“All this proposal accomplishes is to provide SUNY’s public institutions with the unfettered and unrestricted freedom of its own Research Foundation, an organization that has been challenged for its secrecy many times in recent years,” he said.

Smith also called attention to UUP’s other concerns has with the Executive Budget, including:

  • Requiring SUNY’s public hospitals to absorb the full $75 million impact of new mandatory costs and fringe benefits. This added expense comes in the wake of proposed Medicaid reductions and a decade of no growth in state support; and
  • Eliminating state funding for the New York State Theatre Institute. Smith said NYSTI provides school children with an invaluable cultural service and warned it could not survive solely on ticket sales.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 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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