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Dec. 20, 2017

UUP eyes TAP gap, more faculty with legislative priorities

Ensuring that SUNY campuses are fully reimbursed for costs connected to the state’s Excelsior Scholarship, closing the “TAP gap” for students, and supporting a SUNY initiative to hire more full-time faculty, top United University Professions’ legislative priorities for 2018-19.

UUP will also push for laws that require the state to pay past, present and future federally mandated matching Disproportionate Share Program (DSH) entitlements to SUNY’s three state-run hospitals, and to protect the facilities from any federal legislative cutbacks in DSH allocations. The union estimates that the hospitals are owed more than $120 million, reaching back to 2016.

"We are well aware of the constraints projected to be put in place in the governor’s Executive Budget,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal. “So we have limited our requests to those issues of most importance, issues that will ensure our efforts to maintain affordable access to one of the nation’s largest university systems, and provide high-quality health care in our public teaching hospitals."

UUP represents more than 42,000 members, including those who provide vital services to hundreds of thousands of SUNY students each year and more than one million patients at SUNY-operated hospitals. SUNY is still recovering from massive budget cuts enacted during the Great Recession. The state has cut its support for SUNY by half since 2008, from $1.36 billion to $674 million today.

Excelsior and TAP

Kowal said the union will press for additional state funding to make sure that SUNY campuses are “held harmless” and reimbursed for costs or revenue losses caused by the state’s Excelsior Scholarship, a “last-dollar” scholarship for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year. UUP is concerned that the program, with about 12,000 students, will generate enrollment-related increases and revenue decreases, costs that campuses will be forced to pay.

The union also wants the state to pay $60 million to take on the full cost of Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grants for students at state-operated campuses. TAP helps New York residents cover tuition costs; awards are based on income eligibility and a host of other stipulations.

More than 40 percent of TAP students are enrolled at SUNY, yet the University has been forced to pay TAP benefit costs above levels funded by the state, creating what’s known as the “TAP gap”—the difference between SUNY tuition and the maximum TAP award. With the state covering the TAP gap, SUNY would be able to use those dollars to sustain educational quality and improve services to students, Kowal said.

"Those funds should be tied to quality education in the classroom," Kowal said.

Hospitals in crisis

Kowal said SUNY’s hospitals—Brooklyn’s Downstate Medical Center, Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse—are hurting financially due to the state’s refusal to release DSH funds.

Funded through Medicaid, the DSH dollars are due the hospitals for services previously provided to Medicaid patients and uninsured individuals. The state has also withheld matching Medicaid payments, which are required by law.

The SUNY hospitals rely on DSH and matching state funds to fulfill their mission to treat all who walk through their doors, regardless of whether these patients have insurance or can pay for care. SUNY’s hospitals treat many of the state’s sickest and most vulnerable patients.

"So many of these patients have nowhere else to go, and depend on SUNY’s hospitals for health care," said Kowal. "Yet, SUNY’s hospitals are the only facilities that have not received DSH payments from the state, dollars they rely on to provide vital health care services to so many.

"This is why we will seek legislation requiring the state and the state Department of Health to release past and present DSH funding to the hospitals," he continued. "This legislation would also prevent the state from delaying future DSH payments."

The union is also calling on the state to restore to $153 million the subsidy for its state owned-and-operated hospitals, and $36.1 million to cover the hospitals’ debt services costs. The hospitals are the only state department required to pay debt service and fringe benefits costs.

In sync with SUNY

UUP’s legislative priorities include support for a SUNY proposal to create a "Competitive Innovation Fund," to be used to hire full-time SUNY faculty each year over the next five years. Funding for the $48 million program would include $30 million in new appropriations and use of $18 million budgeted for SUNY’s Performance Improvement Fund.

UUP’s plan differs from SUNY’s in that it would set a target to hire 300 full-time faculty per year, and would only pertain to SUNY. The union is backing SUNY’s plan to add $5.2 million to its Educational Opportunity Program, $1.6 million for Educational Opportunity Centers, and $300,000 in federal funding for the ATTAIN labs.

Other UUP legislative initiatives include:

      • $5 million to set up an EOP-linked pipeline program to recruit and educate future teachers from economically disadvantaged communities to provide greater diversity in teaching.
      • $10 million to develop clean energy technology training programs at SUNY’s tech sector colleges.
      • $15 million to establish a Teaching Health Care Fellow program at the University at Buffalo’s medical school. It would fund new positions for as many as 75 health care teaching fellows—medical and osteopathic doctors—who would be SUNY employees. They would teach, mentor and work with 750 resident physicians at nearly a dozen Buffalo-area hospitals. The program would help stabilize the relationship between the medical school and Buffalo-area hospitals where it would place resident physicians. The university center is the only SUNY medical school without an attached hospital.

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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