February 2004

Higher Education

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Ron Canestrari • Chair, Higher Education Committee

The governor’s legacy: Neglecting New York’s colleges and universities

Under the governor’s leadership, New York State has fallen behind the rest of the nation when it comes to support for higher education. In fact, New York currently ranks 41st in the percent change of state support for higher education. This embarrassing ranking is a direct result of the governor’s $2.7 billion in cuts to higher education over his tenure. Unfortunately, this year is no different. His 2004-05 executive budget contains over $337 million in cuts to higher education.

Year after year, the governor has students shouldering more of the cost to operate the state’s higher education system. Tuition accounts for roughly 50 percent of total operational costs for SUNY and CUNY four-year colleges in the executive budget. Before the governor took office in 1995, tuition for these university systems accounted for only 37 percent of total operational costs.

The average cost of tuition and fees to New York’s public four-year institutions was approximately $2,921 in 1995. Today, the figure has jumped $1,141 – 39 percent – to $4,062. During that period, non-tuition SUNY fees more than doubled.

Governor cuts financial aid for students

For the third consecutive year, the governor’s budget reduces Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards by one-third. To make matters worse, students with the lowest incomes would face the biggest cuts to their TAP awards. The governor’s plan would force students to fall further into debt by having them take out additional student loans to make up for lost TAP awards.

The governor also proposes a five percent cut to Opportunity Programs, which provide assistance to New York’s most disadvantaged students. These programs help pay for textbooks, provide counseling and tutoring, and offer a pre-freshman seminar to help acclimate students to the rigors of higher education.

What the experts are saying...

"As you know, without adequate financial aid for students, and without sufficient funding for the university’s programmatic priorities, our ability to provide educational opportunity and fulfill our historic mission will be limited."

- Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor, City University of New York

"The state and federal higher education budgets are a double assault on New York’s colleges and students. Students today are urging Congress and the State Legislature to do everything in their power to increase funding for higher education, to invest in the future."

- Miriam Kramer, Higher Education Coordinator, New York Public Interest Research Group

"The state university educates more than 40 percent of New York’s high school graduates. Yet dwindling state support for the university has led to the loss of more than 1,000 full-time faculty lines in the last decade, leaving SUNY students to contend with swelling class sizes and shrinking class offerings, all of which challenge their ability to graduate in four years. … SUNY, the state’s public university system, is suffering from years of chronic public underfunding. In fact, New York holds the dubious distinction of greater declines in public support for higher education than decreases in most similar states."

- William E. Scheuerman, President, United University Professions

"The Conference Board strongly believes that the state’s investment in higher education must be far more strategic than was proposed in the Executive Budget. We look to you – the members of the Legislature, on a bipartisan basis – to do again what you have done frequently in the past, both in good economic times and in not-so-good economic times. We look to you to improve on what the governor has given you and demonstrate anew your commitment to improving public higher education, lifting the lives of New York students, and embracing and enhancing the economic future of every part of our great state."

- Carl McCall, Co-Chair, New York State Public Higher Education Conference Board

"It would also be nice if in April I could thank you for maintaining the base aid of $2,300 per full-time equivalent student at the community colleges, since unfortunately the governor has cut base aid by $115 per student."

- Dr. Susan O’Malley, Chair, University Faculty Senate, City University of New York

"Once again opportunity is lost for economically disadvantaged students as Economic Opportunity Centers, EOP, SEEK, HEOP, STEP, CSTEP, and the Liberty Partnership Program are all cut by 5 percent. If these cuts stand, the dreams of a college education will be lost for many New Yorkers. We ask that you restore these cuts."

- Alan Lubin, Executive Vice President, New York State United Teachers

Community colleges targeted in governor’s cuts

Community colleges are great places to get a college education – especially for non-traditional students working to acquire new skills for the job market. But the governor is proposing to reduce base aid by 5 percent, which would result in higher tuition and local property taxes. Last year, the Legislature’s budget included $79.4 million more than the governor’s budget to help SUNY and CUNY community colleges provide quality, affordable higher education, including $74 million in base aid.

SUNY spending goes unchecked while students hit with higher costs

For the last three years, the governor and his hand-picked SUNY Trustees have hit students with a devastating one-two punch. The governor cuts higher education programs or hikes tuition and the Trustees pass the extra cost onto the students without any fight for more state aid. In fact, SUNY Trustees are now recommending a plan to raise tuition every year. Moreover, SUNY continues to create new, high-paying management positions. Already, 49 senior managers receive annual salaries in excess of $100,000 – comprising over $6.5 million of the state funding SUNY central administration receives.

It’s ironic that students are asked to bear more financial burden when SUNY’s central administration spending is virtually out of control. A recent audit by the state Comptroller’s Office found questionable spending and hiring practices, poor inventory control, and a lack of oversight at SUNY’s administrative headquarters in Albany. Some of the discrepancies auditors found were: pay raises handed out to nine SUNY employees totaling $120,296 without required performance assessments; and more than 400 items – valued in excess of $723,000 – missing from the SUNY administration’s equipment inventory. Until they get their house in order, SUNY officials should not push through more tuition and fee increases.

Governor’s failure to provide details results in delay of SUNY and CUNY Capital Plans

SUNY and CUNY schools depend on capital project funding to maintain, expand and create college infrastructures – from improving safety conditions to increasing handicapped access.

Unfortunately in last year’s budget proposal, the governor provided little information or detail to justify the capital appropriations – resulting in the delay of significant portions of the capital plans. This year, the governor also failed to include any capital funding for the 11 Educational Opportunity Centers located across the state. These centers help 20,000 students statewide receive educational and career services.

Assembly leads the fight for affordable higher education

Education provides our students with the skills to compete for good-paying jobs and is a major component of economic growth. It is essential that New York offers a quality education that all can access. Though the governor has lost sight of this, the Assembly has not. New York’s dismal national ranking of 41st in state support for higher education could easily have been dead-last if the Assembly hadn’t stood firm and restored over $2 billion of the governor’s cuts over the last 9 years. This year, the Assembly will again fight to ensure our students and the integrity of our higher education system are protected.

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