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February 11, 2013

UUP to lawmakers: SUNY needs more than tuition hikes, additional funds for teaching hospitals

The State University of New York (SUNY) needs more state aid to ensure qualified students have access to public higher education, and its three teaching hospitals need their state funding restored to their former level. Those are among the major points made by Phillip H. Smith, president of the union representing academic and professional faculty at SUNY, in written testimony submitted and presented by UUP Secretary Eileen Landy at a public hearing conducted by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees.

The president of United University Professions (UUP) told lawmakers that SUNY is increasingly relying on tuition and fee increases for revenue growth, as the Executive Budget proposes no increase in the amount of state support.

“After suffering losses of $685 million in state support over a four-year period, the University’s operating budget relies heavily – nearly 75 percent – on tuition and fees to fund its daily operations. In contrast, in the late 1990s, 75 percent of SUNY’s spending budget came from state support,” Smith said.

Because of those years of cutbacks, SUNY lacks the funding to improve quality or manage an enrollment increase of 20,000 students, Smith testified. He said UUP fears that access to SUNY for students from low- and middle-income families will be compromised as SUNY seeks to limit admission to students who can pay their tuition without financial aid.

“Underfunding SUNY threatens the very purpose for which SUNY was created – to ensure that every New Yorker capable of benefiting from a baccalaureate degree program has access to such a program, regardless of affordability,” Smith said. "State aid must be increased. The rational tuition program should not be an excuse to withhold additional state support,” Smith emphasized.

Additionally, Smith asked lawmakers to come to the aid of SUNY’s three hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse that face a $28 million reduction in their state subsidy in the Executive Budget. He requested the subsidy be increased from the proposed $60 million to its former level of $128 million. Smith also objected to the Executive Budget proposal that would create a private entity to take control over Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, which houses a medical school that trains most of the primary care physicians that serve New York City. He warned the consequences would be horrific.

“There would be an enormous decreases in health care services to the Brooklyn community, a significant reduction in the number of primary care physicians available for the New York City area, massive layoffs, and an economic blow to the community that could be worse than any other over the last 20 or 30 years,” he said.

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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