December 5, 2018

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UUP, public higher ed leaders call for true MOE

uupdate 12-5-18

CLICK HERE to download UUP President Fred Kowal's MOE testimony

CLICK HERE to download UUP's media release on President Fred Kowal's MOE testimony

Multi-million-dollar budget gaps. Bottomed-out reserve accounts. Essential programs and services being cut, or cut out altogether. State hospitals with no state funding.

That’s what a decade of flat or reduced state spending has wrought at SUNY, made worse by the Great Recession. All of those desperate circumstances are unfolding right now, at four-year colleges like Fredonia and Buffalo State, and at the prestigious University Centers like Stony Brook and Binghamton.

Things could quickly improve if the collective power of the state’s public education unions and empathetic lawmakers could convince the governor to sign an enhanced maintenance of effort bill into law to help both SUNY and CUNY.

UUP President Fred Kowal spoke in strong support of the bill, and urged legislators to include SUNY’s state-operated teaching hospitals and health sciences centers in his Dec. 5 testimony before the state Assembly’s Standing Committee on Higher Education.

“We urge the governor to sign the bill before him for an enhanced MOE,” UUP President Fred Kowal said. “Since 2007-08, state aid to SUNY has plummeted from $1.36 billion to $700 million this year – a decrease of nearly 50 percent, or about a third of its core operating budget. Last year, the hospitals saw the elimination of the state’s $80 million hospital subsidy, and they stand to lose significant indigent care funding.”

Kowal was joined at the hearing by NYSUT President Andy Pallotta and by Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, both of whom added their urgings for the bill to his.

Covering basic needs

An enhanced MOE would cover mandatory campus expenditures such as building rentals, utility costs, collectively bargained salary increases and fringe benefits, and tuition credit increases. And it would inject desperately needed cash into both of the state’s gasping public higher education systems.

Kowal said he has received calls from some campuses informing him that reserve funds have run dry. SUNY Fredonia is considering cutting 20 undergraduate and graduate programs to close a budget gap.

Stony Brook University has gone into survival mode with a hiring freeze and the suspension of admission to several undergraduate and graduate programs in the Humanities. Reports of anticipated multi-million-dollar budget shortfalls are becoming common.

There is no clear explanation for why the finances of so many SUNY campuses have crashed so suddenly, but Kowal told lawmakers that it may not be much more complicated than the separate budgets at a number of SUNY colleges hitting the wall at the same time. The damage to the state’s reputation could be lasting, he said, if New York becomes known as the state that allowed a premier public university system to buckle and then collapse.

“New York must be a beacon of hope for public higher education in the country,” Kowal said.

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