For Immediate Release
January 28, 2019
Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., president of United University Professions, today urged the state Legislature to make a strong commitment to SUNY by budgeting $30 million to hire more full-time, tenure-track professors, a move he said would push the governor’s proposal to increase SUNY faculty diversity.
Kowal, who testified today at a public hearing conducted by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees, also asked lawmakers to restore the $87 million subsidy to SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and more than $12 million for SUNY’s successful opportunity programs cut from the Executive Budget.
The president of America’s largest public higher education union also called on legislators to add $25 million to the state budget to help SUNY state-operated campuses cover the so-called “TAP gap— the portion of SUNY tuition that campuses must waive for TAP awardees.
In addition, Kowal told legislators that UUP strongly supports heavily increased oversight and transparency of college campus foundations and affiliated nonprofit corporations—such as Fort Schuyler Management Corp., which was at the center of the “Buffalo Billion” bid-rigging scandal.
Kowal welcomed the governor’s plan to hire 1,000 new full-time, tenure-track SUNY faculty over the next 10 years—a proposal unfunded in the Executive Budget. Adding $30 million to hire new full-time faculty would be a “good first step” toward the governor’s goal of increasing diversity among SUNY faculty.
“This glaring shortage of full-time, tenure-track faculty from diverse racial and ethnic communities at SUNY must be rectified,” said Kowal.
The need for more full-time SUNY faculty will increase as the Excelsior Scholarship becomes available to more students; the program’s income threshold moves from $110,000 per year to $125,000 per year in 2019. The newly approved DREAM Act is also expected to contribute to growing SUNY campus enrollments, the union president said.
Kowal said closing the TAP gap—about $62 million annually—will free up funding for cash-strapped campuses, allowing them more flexibility to expand course offerings and provide important student services. A number of campuses, including SUNY Fredonia, Stony Brook University, Binghamton University, SUNY Plattsburgh, Buffalo State College, and SUNY New Paltz, are struggling to cover budget gaps.
“This TAP gap is equivalent to the annual salaries of over 500 new full-time, tenure-track faculty,” Kowal said. “These additional hires could increase advising, counseling, tutoring, and course offerings needed to help ensure that students complete their education, and complete on time.”
The maximum TAP grant of $5,165 only covers 75 percent of SUNY undergraduate tuition. TAP covered 100 percent of SUNY tuition at state-operated campuses from 1974 through 2009-10; the state’s percentage has declined since then, expanding the TAP funding gap. More than 40 percent of TAP students attend SUNY schools; over a third of SUNY students at state-operated campuses receive TAP aid.
Kowal said the union is “pleased” with the governor’s plan to budget $60 million in federal Disproportionate Share Program entitlements for SUNY’s three public teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse. These funds, a state match to the federal funding, are reimbursements for care the hospitals have already provided.
But the hospitals will face daunting fiscal challenges without a state subsidy—eliminated from the budget last year and replaced by one-time funding through the federal Care Restructuring Enhancement Pilot program. The nonprofit hospitals rely on the subsidy for crucial operating support.
These teaching hospitals turn no one away, regardless of their ability to pay for care. They also fund their medical schools, and cover employee fringe benefits and debt service.
“Our teaching hospitals do not turn a profit and shouldn’t be expected to do so,” Kowal said. “The care, treatment and safety of the hundreds of thousands of patients served by these facilities is a direct state responsibility.”
Kowal also requested that lawmakers:
- Restore $5.3 million eliminated from the governor’s Executive Budget proposal for the Educational Opportunity Program and $7 million for the Educational Opportunity Centers and ATTAIN Labs; and
- Pass legislation to require campus foundations and affiliated corporation to submit annual budgets to SUNY for approval, and to restore the state Comptroller’s authority to audit these entities