Feb. 8, 2016

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UUP to state: Invest in SUNY

uupdate 2-8-16

Read UUP's testimony to the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee

The State University of New York needs nearly $56 million more in state funding for the 2016-1017 budget year, and not even that would cover all of the needs of a public higher education system starved by the state for nearly a decade, UUP VP for Academics Jamie Dangler told lawmakers.

In her Feb. 8 testimony before a joint budget hearing of the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, Dangler said that students shoulder most of the costs of SUNY’s operating budget—which isn’t fair.

“The sunset of NYSUNY 2020 gives us a timely opportunity to reflect on the strengths and unmet needs of the university,” Dangler said. “Years of underinvestment have skewed the partnership between students and their families and state responsibility. Currently, university operations derive 64 percent of support from tuition and only 36 percent from the state’s general fund.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed extending NYSUNY 2020, which the state intended to provide predictable funding increases to SUNY for the enhancement of academic programs. Instead, cash-strapped campuses have used that revenue to fund mandatory and unanticipated costs.

The Executive Budget proposal follows a familiar pattern of recommending flat funding for SUNY, which has seen nearly a decade of either flat funding or grossly inadequate funding increases.

Dangler’s testimony followed a news conference earlier in the day in which UUP President Fred Kowal called on the governor and the Legislature to support a realistic Maintenance of Effort bill for SUNY. The MOE would provide funds for operating expenses such as utility bills that students are now heavily subsidizing with their tuition. Lawmakers gave the bill nearly unanimous support in the last budget, but the governor vetoed it in December.

Dangler also called on the Legislature to restore the SUNY hospital subsidy to its 2010 level of $128 million; to fund the development of four ambulatory care centers in Brooklyn that would be affiliated with the SUNY Downstate Medical Center; to hire more full-time, tenure-track faculty; to move away from a flawed plan for performance-based funding at SUNY; and to create a program to foster clinical instruction at SUNY Buffalo’s Health Science Center.

She also urged lawmakers to support UUP’s legislative program for teacher education at SUNY, by creating a program to recruit talented teachers from under-represented populations, and to stop outsourcing certification exam administration and fee collection to outside companies.

Dangler was joined by NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta; Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY; and Mike Fabricant, the PSC’s first vice president. All echoed Dangler’s concern that New York’s two great public university systems are at risk of losing their national reputations, as funding cuts make it more difficult to recruit and retain faculty or to offer a sound education.

“The greatest engine of social progress and upward mobility is public higher education,” Dangler said. ““UUP believes that access to quality academic and support programs shouldn’t depend on the zip code you were born into or your family’s bank account.”

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