CONTACT: Don Feldstein or
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 9, 2014
Student debt refinancing, promoting access
UUP Action Plan overview
UUP BOSS fact sheet
UUP SUNY Student Loan Refinancing proposal fact sheet
ALBANY – United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., today introduced a multifaceted action plan that includes a new student loan refinancing program for recent State University of New York graduates and calls for the state to pay its fair share of the University’s operational costs.
The union’s plan would also create a new campus incentive program, Bringing Opportunities for Student Success (BOSS), a loan forgiveness mechanism for SUNY adjuncts and a permanent endowment to provide a long-term funding source for SUNY.
“Today, an undergraduate degree is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity like a high school diploma was decades ago,” Kowal said. “We believe that this action plan is the key to providing that opportunity to New York’s students, especially those who look to SUNY as their only option for a college education.”
UUP Secretary Eileen Landy, who represented the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, and Executive Board member Anne Wiegard, who represented New Faculty Majority, also spoke at the press conference.
UUP’s SUNY Student Loan Refinancing proposal would allow recent SUNY graduates to refinance federal and state student loans incurred after Jan. 1, 2008. Graduates must earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at any state-operated college or university and wait a year after graduation to be eligible for the program. More than 2.8 million New Yorkers have school loan debt, estimated at $73.2 billion.
The union’s proposed Adjuncts Loan Forgiveness Program would give eligible SUNY adjuncts the opportunity to waive a maximum of $29,400 in loans. Adjuncts would have to teach least two courses at a state-operated SUNY school to apply for loan forgiveness.
Under BOSS, additional incentive funding would be awarded to campuses that work to hire more full-time faculty and staff; move adjunct and contingent faculty to full-time positions; aggressively pursue a more diverse faculty, staff and student body; and provide significant support for the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program’s pre-freshman summer program.
“We believe these initiatives will go far in providing and maintaining an affordable, quality public education at SUNY for years to come,” Kowal said.
But the proposals can’t become reality unless the state provides its fair share—at least 50 percent—of SUNY’s funding. Students pay 63 percent of SUNY’s operating costs through tuition and fees.
“When more than half of SUNY’s funding comes from students, that’s not a public university. It’s a private university that receives some public funding. That’s unfair and it’s not right,” said Kowal.
A new, “true” maintenance of effort is also necessary; the agreement would cover funding for SUNY’s three teaching hospitals and cover the basic expenses of its state-operated campuses, as well as collective bargaining costs.
“After years of budget cuts followed by flat funding, it has been a struggle for SUNY campuses to maintain their equipment and infrastructure,” said Kowal. “Flat funding has not covered increases in those annual costs.”
UUP will renew its push for the creation of a permanent endowment for SUNY to help rebuild academic departments crippled by chronic underfunding. The endowment would be used to expand hiring of full-time faculty and allow more part-time faculty and staff to move into full-time positions.
To help more high-needs students gain entrance to college, UUP is working on a program to help those students identify potential careers, apply for college and financial aid and prepare for the academic challenges of higher education.
UUP will urge that a portion of the state’s Wall Street settlements with big banks be used to fund these new programs.
“I can think of no better use for those hundreds of millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains than to use them to rebuild SUNY,” Kowal said. “UUP is presenting a realistic action plan to ensure that SUNY provides a world-class education to its students for years to come.”
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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