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January 24, 2017

UUP calls on Legislature for more full-time faculty, hospital aid

Click here to read President Kowal's testimony

ALBANY - Citing an “absolute need” for more full-time faculty and restoration of funds drastically cut during the Great Recession, United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., urged the state Legislature to invest in SUNY to help the University rebound, rebuild and prepare for a crush of new students from the governor’s proposed free tuition program.

Kowal, who testified today at a public hearing conducted by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees, said the state would make a strong, strategic investment in SUNY by budgeting $50 million to begin rebuilding the University—with first priority given to SUNY’s comprehensive and technology campuses, which absorbed the harshest budget cuts.

The funding would be part of a multiyear effort to restore at least half of the state’s budget cuts to SUNY during the recession. SUNY was rocked by a series of drastic cuts; state support to SUNY has dropped from $1.32 billion in 2007-08 to less than $680 million this year—a decrease of nearly 50 percent.

The union is also asking for $30 million to fund the first year of a five-year program to increase SUNY’s full-time faculty by 1,500. In 2000, SUNY had 10,300 full-time faculty to instruct 185,000 students. Today, it has fewer than 8,700 full-time faculty to teach 220,000 students.

“This investment in SUNY is crucial to the survival of many of our campuses and to the future viability of the entire system,” said Kowal. “Let’s ditch the duct tape-approach to these long-standing concerns and apply real, permanent fixes that will benefit SUNY students and ensure that the University continues as a world-class center of learning.”

And SUNY will need to hire more instructors to teach the thousands of new students who will attend SUNY and CUNY schools thanks to the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship program, which would provide free tuition for students whose families make less than $125,000 yearly. More than 940,000 families and individuals would qualify, according to the Executive Budget proposal. More than one-third of the faculty at SUNY are low-paid adjuncts, some of whom teach at multiple schools to making a living.

Also in testimony, Kowal requested that legislators restore the SUNY hospitals’ subsidy to its original $154 million allocation, where it was in 2009. The state-owned, state-operated SUNY hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse need to prepare for a potential rush of patients with little or no health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a suitable replacement. Up to 2.7 million New Yorkers could lose health care coverage if the ACA is scrapped, according to state figures.

“A rollback of the ACA could create a perfect storm for our hospitals,” said Kowal. “These institutions are a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of patients each year, many of who are uninsured or underinsured.”

Kowal called on lawmakers to approve a new, five-year plan that would compel the state to pay debt service costs and employee fringe benefits for its three public hospitals. The facilities are the only state institutions responsible for these costs.

The union is also proposing a new, $600 million capital program—$200 million for each hospital—with the state assuming all debt service for this program and for all previously issued hospital-related bonds.

Kowal also requested that lawmakers:

        • Pass transparency legislation for the SUNY Research Foundation and SUNY’s campus foundations.
        • Restore Executive Budget funding reductions for and expand investment in SUNY’s highly successful Educational Opportunity Centers and Educational Opportunity Program.
        • Create a teacher education pilot program to increase diversity in New York’s teaching ranks.

“These proposals are intended to make New York a beacon of hope in the Trump era, which is already showing signs of a full-scale attack on health care and public education,” said Kowal.

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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