Dec. 9, 2014

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Kowal announces far-reaching union action plan

uupdate 12-9-14

Read the UUP press release

Proposals to create a financial incentive program for campuses and allow recent SUNY graduates to refinance school loans are part of a slate of bold new UUP initiatives.

UUP President Fred Kowal announced the union’s action plan at a Dec. 9 press conference in Albany.

The package also includes the creation of a new loan forgiveness mechanism for SUNY adjuncts and a permanent publicly funded endowment for SUNY.

“As the largest higher education union in the country, it is the duty of UUP to develop and articulate plans that will strengthen SUNY,” said Kowal, flanked by SUNY students and UUP members, including Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler and Secretary Eileen Landy.

“There’s a lot to like here,” NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said, challenging lawmakers to back the UUP plan. “This system was created in the first place to have an affordable public university for all New Yorkers. Let’s put the money up and fund this program and give our students the opportunities they deserve.”

UUP’s plan proposes:

  • The SUNY Student Loan Refinancing program, for SUNY graduates with state or federal student loans incurred as of Jan. 1, 2008. They must earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a state-operated SUNY school and wait a year after graduating to take part in the program.
  • The Adjuncts Loan Forgiveness Program, which would provide eligible SUNY adjuncts with a waiver for up to $29,400 in loans.
  • Bringing Opportunities for Student Success, a program that would award financial incentives to campuses that work to hire more full-time faculty and staff; promote part-time faculty to full-time positions; develop greater diversity in their faculty, staff and student bodies; and significantly support the Educational Opportunity Program’s pre-freshman summer program.
  • A permanent publicly funded endowment for SUNY to rebuild faculty and professional staff. 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.

“Today, an undergraduate degree is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity like a high school diploma was decades ago,” said Kowal, above, who appeared on Time Warner Cable show “Capital Tonight” hours after the press conference. “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’s plan requires the state to provide its fair share—at least 50 percent—of SUNY’s funding. Students pay 63 percent of SUNY’s operating costs through tuition and fees.

A new, genuine maintenance of effort is also necessary; the agreement would cover funding for SUNY’s three teaching hospitals and cover basic expenses of its state-operated campuses, as well as collective bargaining costs.

“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.”

A portion of the state’s Wall Street settlements with big banks could 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.”

Once the legislative session opens, UUP will be pressing to see its proposals become law this year.

“Certainly, we will continue to work with our longstanding friends in the state Legislature on this program,” Kowal said.

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