For Immediate Release
October 30, 2023
United University Professions, America’s largest higher education union, is set to fight any planned or proposed cuts to programs, faculty, or staff at SUNY Fredonia to reduce the college’s projected deficit.
Today, UUP President Fred Kowal and statewide Vice President for Academics Alissa Karl are at SUNY Fredonia to deliver that straightforward message to members at the Western New York campus. They will also insist that SUNY has funding to support cash-strapped campuses across the state—and must make it available to campuses in need.
No cuts to programs or staff have been announced, but UUP is very concerned that plans may be in the works to slash degree programs at SUNY Fredonia and other campuses facing projected multimillion-dollar deficits. In September, SUNY Potsdam announced plans to cut 14 degree programs—and associated faculty and staff— to reduce a projected $9 million deficit. Last week, Potsdam administration announced that it will keep four of those programs.
“We are here to tell our members at Fredonia, as well as students and the community, that UUP will fight any and all attempts by SUNY and administration to cut programs at this college,” said Kowal. “We will fight this every step of the way because what’s at stake is so important—our members, our students and our communities.”
“$163 million in new SUNY state funding is available in the enacted budget to erase deficits at Fredonia, Potsdam and 17 other financially troubled campuses,” said Kowal. “But the SUNY Board of Trustees chose not to distribute the funds based on campus need. This is a manufactured crisis and we’re concerned that Potsdam will become the template for similar cuts at financially troubled campuses like Fredonia or Buffalo State University to lower enrollments and ultimately close campuses.
“We will not let this happen.”
SUNY Fredonia’s deficit was about $16 million as of December 2022.
UUP strongly advocated for the $163 million, which UUP maintains is enough to close multimillion-dollar deficits at Potsdam, Fredonia, Buffalo State and 16 other campuses, mostly located upstate. Yet, the Trustees apportioned the money in a way that left many of these campuses in the red.
“The Board of Trustees’ decision was destructive and I believe intentional to create vulnerability with SUNY’s financially troubled campuses,” Kowal said.
In addition to the money directly held by SUNY, SUNY Fredonia and Potsdam have campus foundations with substantial holdings. Kowal questioned why dollars from these campus foundations haven’t been used to wipe out deficits at the colleges.
“Utilizing campus foundation dollars to avert program cuts at these campuses would also fulfill the stated goals of these foundations,” Kowal said. “Given the multitude of options, there is no need to consider any of these cuts.”
The Fredonia College Foundation, which reports assets of $48.3 million as of December 2022, has a mission to “promote, advance and support the activities and programs of Fredonia,” according to the SUNY Fredonia website.
The Potsdam College Foundation—which lists $51 million in assets as of June 2022—is dedicated to building “a sustainable future” for SUNY Potsdam, and it supports the college’s goal to recruit and retain students. The foundation “stewards its resources for the long-term benefit SUNY Potsdam while also providing the maximum possible current financial support to the College and its students...,” according to the SUNY Potsdam website.
“First, the SUNY Board of Trustees neglects to use new state funding—that UUP worked so hard for—to erase deficits at financially troubled SUNY campuses, like Potsdam and Fredonia,” Kowal said. “And so far, not one dollar has been spent by campus college foundations to wipe out those deficits—and, in Potsdam’s case, to save important programs that will help grow and sustain enrollment.
“Every day, our members at Potsdam, Fredonia and campuses across New York state, provide our students with a world-class educational experience that will serve them throughout their lives,” Kowal continued. “The work our members do positively impacts our students, our communities and our state both educationally and economically.”