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For Immediate Release
March 11, 2021

SUNY students, supporters call for expanded access, diversity at UUP Opportunity Advocacy Day

United University Professions hosted hundreds of students, faculty, staff and public higher education coalition partners at a March 11 virtual rally, where students and advocates spoke out for expanded access, diversity and opportunity for SUNY students.

The daylong event, which included meetings with more than 20 members of the state Senate and Assembly, began with a plenary session that served as a rallying call for budget actions to expand funding for SUNY. UUP seeks to create opportunities for students to have access to a world-class education and succeed in their educational goals.

Advocates also made it clear that it is time to tax the rich, by pushing for new taxes on billionaires and the ultrarich to help pay for the proposals. UUP is calling for these and other important initiatives in its New York HEALS (Healthcare, Education, Access, Leadership, Sustainability) legislative agenda.

“When we talk about opportunity at SUNY, we’re talking about a big-picture view to broaden opportunity and access for thousands of students who dream of earning a SUNY degree, and the thousands of New Yorkers who are lacking access to affordable health care,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal. “To address racial divisions and economic inequality, we need to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in SUNY. We must greatly expand SUNY’s successful opportunity programs, and establish a Medical Educational Opportunity Program (MEOP) to help students—who lack the means but possess the ability—get into SUNY medical schools, and fully fund New York's vital Tuition Assistance Program.

“And we need a combination of new revenue streams, like new taxes on billionaires and ultramillionaires and the reinstatement of the state’s stock transfer tax, to help make these and other proposals in our New York HEALS plan a reality,” he continued. “Our continuous advocacy will press our elected state officials to get behind these important initiatives.”

Three students from SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program—Stony Brook University student Erica Ayisi-Boahene and Binghamton University students Crystal Boateng Botweh and Anta Tall—spoke at the virtual event. They were joined by Kowal, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, state Sen. Robert Jackson, state Assemblymember Patricia Fahy and SUNY Student Assembly President Bradley Hershenson.

You can view video of the event HERE.

NYSUT President Pallotta said, “Opportunity programs are critical planks on the pathway to a brighter future that SUNY provides for New Yorkers. We know there is work to be done to expand access to these programs to more students, and that starts with providing the funding needed to broaden offerings across the SUNY system. To do that, we know the state will need new revenues, which is why we say it’s high time the ultrawealthy paid their fair share in taxes and helped us fund our future.

SUNY Chancellor Malatras said, “Following the federal government’s passing of the $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package yesterday, we now turn our attention to the state’s budget to make sure we get continued investment to keep a SUNY education affordable and high quality. The federal aid provides tremendous relief for our students and our campuses, and in coming out of this pandemic we have a chance with our partners within the state Legislature to expand our opportunity programs, give campuses the resources they need to grow and serve students, and support our frontline workers at SUNY hospitals. Along with UUP and our campus leadership, we know there are still too many New Yorkers without a post-secondary degree, and we will look for ways to open more doors to an education.”

Sen. Jackson said, "As a proud alum of SUNY New Paltz, I have lived the importance of the SUNY EOP program, and I recognize how it is helping to shape the future of our state for the better. EOP students make amazing contributions on campus, and after they graduate, they leverage their university education to contribute to every segment of our society. Being an EOP student at New Paltz changed my life. I fully support EOP and the rebuilding of each and every one of the state higher education programs that increase access for our marginalized communities. Everyone deserves an opportunity to pursue higher education. I'm proud to join great unions like UUP as we fight together to create a stronger, fairer economy by raising revenue from the wealthiest New Yorkers to make these expanded opportunities in higher ed possible.”

Assemblymember Fahy said, "SUNY's opportunity programs represent the inherent promise of higher education. SUNY's EOP program makes it possible for students who otherwise might never have attained a college degree or considered attending higher education to become proud SUNY graduates. As the state budget process continues at the State Capitol, I am committed to working with my legislative colleagues to make sure these programs are fully funded and to ensure a bright future for the hundreds of students they serve. I thank UUP and NYSUT for their work in supporting opportunities for all of New York's students on Opportunity Day."

SSA President Hershenson, said, "Investing in our opportunity and access programs is critical this legislative session. The programs and services our campuses provide open more doors for student success; and places SUNY at the forefront of academic excellence. Protecting this investment in the budget process this year is imperative to overcoming the challenges of the pandemic and strengthening New York state communities and its economy."

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 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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