By Pat Gareau
“We cannot plan the future of our state university on yesterday’s dollars.” This has been SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s mantra and was among the opening remarks of UAlbany President Robert Jones at a Mar. 10 event where local college leaders advocated for increased funding.
Among those who spoke at the event, hosted by UAlbany, was Hudson Valley president Drew Matonak. “What we are asking our legislators to do is to support SUNY and the collective impact of SUNY on the entire state of New York for our students, but also for our economy,” he said.
The increases in funding that SUNY is asking for would be used for expanding programs that have worked at individual campuses across the system, building new facilities, and extending the rational tuition plan through 2020.
Rational tuition was a policy passed by the state legislature in 2011 that set tuition increases at SUNY four-year colleges to a fixed rate of $300 per year. Zimpher is asking the state to extend this policy, which is set to expire after next year, through 2020 and apply a similar one to community colleges.
SUNY is also asking for $600 million for capital projects and facility upgrades, which is triple the amount currently allocated in the pending executive budget. Hudson Valley’s new athletic complex is currently in the executive budget and funded as a SUNY capital project.
Also included in SUNY’s pitch to the state is increased funding for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). A group of Hudson Valley students went to the Capitol earlier this spring to advocate for the EOP, whose funding is being decreased in the executive budget.
Matonak noted that in recent years the state has been below the levels of funding originally intended for community colleges. When established in New York, community colleges were supposed to be funded equally by the state, local counties, and students. According to Matonak, about 22 percent of Hudson Valley’s budget comes from the state.
“As many of our students know, they have had to pick up a greater portion of their educational cost. About 48 percent of [Hudson Valley’s] budget comes from our students,” said Matonak.
SUNY’s plan seeks to curb the rising cost to students and strive for a world-class system by creating a SUNY investment fund within the state budget to pay for many of the aforementioned initiatives.
The requested increase in funding comes during an executive budget season where other issues have taken the forefront in the debate, including Governor Cuomo’s proposed reforms to the public school system and legislative ethics laws.