For Immediate Release
December 6, 2023
United University Professions, the nation’s largest higher education union, today came out strongly against a plan to discontinue 13 degree programs and associated faculty and staff at SUNY Fredonia to reduce a projected $17 million deficit—caused in large part by a severe lack of state funding to SUNY campuses during the Cuomo administration.
UUP President Frederick E. Kowal said that UUP—which represents more than 38,000 members at 29 state-operated campuses and SUNY’s three teaching hospitals—will do all it can to fight the planned cuts and save jobs at the Western New York campus.
“UUP will stand against any and all attempts by SUNY and administration to cut programs at SUNY Fredonia and any other SUNY campus,” said Kowal, who traveled to SUNY Fredonia Oct. 30 to meet with members there. “We will fight every step of the way because we must. The heart and soul of SUNY—our members, our students, and our communities—hangs in the balance.
“Today’s announcement is no more than a continuation of the systematic dismantling of SUNY that started under former Gov. Cuomo,” Kowal continued. “Further, it is a direct attack on the union workers who do the work of educating students at SUNY Fredonia and SUNY campuses across the state.”
The program cuts represent 15 percent of all majors offered at the college. During their announcement, administraotrs were unclear about exactly how large the deficit is at SUNY Fredonia. They cited a $10 million deficit and also cited a $17 million deficit. Also, they were unable to say how much money the campus would save by discontinuing the 13 programs.
Kowal criticized SUNY’s so-called restructuring plan for SUNY Fredonia, calling it a “manufactured crisis” intended to further reduce enrollment.
“This is about shrinking smaller campuses that don’t make money,” said Kowal. “And it flies in the face of SUNY’s own mission, to provide the highest quality educational experience with the broadest possible access through a geographically distributed system of diverse campuses.”
SUNY had more than enough money to erase the deficit at Fredonia and multimillion-dollar shortfalls at 18 other campuses. Through its strong advocacy, UUP was instrumental in securing $163 million in new direct state funding to SUNY in the 2023-2024 budget, a record investment in SUNY by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature.
Instead, the SUNY Board of Trustees chose to distribute the lion’s share of that funding to SUNY’s university centers. SUNY Fredonia received $2.8 million. SUNY Potsdam, which plans to cut 10 degree programs and staff to reduce a $9 million deficit, got $2.5 million, according to a SUNY Board of Trustees resolution.
“The money is there to close deficits at 18 campuses, but SUNY chose to distribute it another way,” Kowal said. “Instead of working to grow enrollments at these campuses, SUNY is using enrollment decreases as a reason to enact these cuts—which will further lower enrollments and could possibly lead to campuses being closed.”
UUP has been very concerned that SUNY would move to make program and staffing cuts at other small, rural campuses since September, when SUNY Potsdam administrators announced its plan to cut programs.
“As we’ve been saying all along, SUNY is using Potsdam as a template for similar cuts at financially troubled campuses, like Buffalo State University and SUNY Fredonia—which we saw come to fruition today,” Kowal said.
“We certainly understand the necessity of a long-range plan to guide campuses into the future,” Kowal continued. “But what was announced today isn’t that. This is the second in a series of severe cuts at small campuses in economically depressed, rural upstate communities. This cannot continue. SUNY’s reputation as a world-class institution of higher learning is at stake.”
Financially strapped SUNY campuses have never recovered from massive Great Recession-era cuts to SUNY and more than a decade of austerity budgets forced upon SUNY by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This has had a direct impact on enrollment at most campuses, particularly at smaller campuses like SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Potsdam.
When adjusted for inflation, direct state funding to SUNY was slashed by $7.8 billion since 2008-09—a 39 percent decline. Under Cuomo, students were forced to shoulder the majority of SUNY’s funding through tuition and fees. When Cuomo resigned, students were paying $2 for every dollar the state provided.
“You don’t cut your way out of a manufactured crisis — you invest and grow out of it,” Kowal said.