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SUNY Not Pleased with Losing Tuition Hike Money

From the Poughkeepsie Journal.com
2/6/2009

By Cara Matthews, Journal Albany bureau, February 4, 2009

ALBANY - State University of New York officials and students said Wednesday they are unhappy they will benefit from just 10 percent of this semester's tuition hike and vowed to fight harder to get all of it in the 2009-10 budget.

The Legislature on Tuesday forged an agreement with Gov. David Paterson to patch a $1.6 billion hole in the current budget year, which ends March 31. The state will reduce SUNY's operating funds by 90 percent of what the $620-per-year tuition hike collects this semester, for a savings of $62 million. The net savings will be $53 million because the new rate will be factored into the Tuition Assistance Program.

"I am very upset with the fact that tuition money has been swept into the general fund to help defray the deficit," said Carl Hayden of Elmira, chairman of SUNY's Board of Trustees. "My personal view is that it is a breach of faith with SUNY students and their families."

Hayden said he understands everyone must sacrifice in difficult times, but "tuition money is trust money. It is money paid for by families for preserving the quality of education."

SUNY trustees voted last year to boost tuition by $620 a year, or 14 percent, to $4,970. The first half was due this semester. Their intention was to keep the extra money to help offset some of more than $210 million in state funding reductions this fiscal year.

Paterson's 2009-10 proposed budget reduces SUNY operating funds by 80 percent of what is collected in higher tuition. That would leave $122 million for the state to help reduce the projected $13 billion deficit.

The governor's recommended budget would reduce SUNY's budget by $140 million next year, according to SUNY. That includes a 10 percent reduction in aid to community colleges, use of campus revenue funds, and other measures. Matt Anderson, a spokesman for Paterson's Budget Division, defended the use of new tuition money.

"It is important to note, however, that this proposal represents the first time in recent state history that a tuition increase will provide for an expanded investment in the SUNY system, which is a fundamental break from past practice and an important step forward," he said.

Student leaders said in a statement that the use of the tuition hike shows "neglect of the SUNY system" and "complete disregard" for students and families. It will lead to fewer course offerings, larger class sizes, less-qualified professors, and almost no new purchases of instructional equipment at a time when more New Yorkers than ever attend SUNY, they said.

"I never could have dreamed of such a gross misuse of my tuition dollars; we have truly seen the ultimate bait and switch in Albany," said Jacob Crawford, a SUNY trustee and Student Assembly president. He is a SUNY Albany student. For a growing number of New Yorkers, SUNY is the only affordable college option, Student Assembly spokesman David Belsky of Queens said.

"This coup on students' tuition paired with the reduction in state support will lead to a lower quality of education than students paid for," said Belsky, a Binghamton University graduate who is in a SUNY Albany master's program. Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, said when SUNY's new chancellor gets hired, "there'll have to be some serious discussions on how that person interacts with the Legislature and lobbies forcefully." SUNY is nearing completion of a chancellor search.

"There has to be a more energetic response, and not just from SUNY central (administration), but from the parent community. People have to hear from their constituents that they've very disturbed and that they are largely middle-class people who view this as a tax," Glick said. "They'd be happy to pay it if it went to...improving the quality of education, more full-time faculty, better facilities, more sections of courses."

Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Toby Stavisky, D-Queens, said she would have preferred the tuition increase not to be swept into the general fund, but lawmakers had to vote on a whole package.

"Going forward, we're going to do the best we can not to have this repeated in 2009-10," she said.

Stavisky noted that SUNY and City University of New York community colleges were slated to lose a total of $15 million in this week's package, but that was removed. The federal economic-stimulus money, part of which will go to education, will help in developing next year's budget, she said.

The Senate Republican conference opposed using the new tuition funds to help reduce the state deficit this year, said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County.

"We believe that it's an ill-advised raid on SUNY, which breaks a promise to middle-class families who are working harder than ever to pay for college," Reif said.

By Cara Matthews, Journal Albany bureau, February 4, 2009

ALBANY - State University of New York officials and students said Wednesday they are unhappy they will benefit from just 10 percent of this semester's tuition hike and vowed to fight harder to get all of it in the 2009-10 budget.

The Legislature on Tuesday forged an agreement with Gov. David Paterson to patch a $1.6 billion hole in the current budget year, which ends March 31. The state will reduce SUNY's operating funds by 90 percent of what the $620-per-year tuition hike collects this semester, for a savings of $62 million. The net savings will be $53 million because the new rate will be factored into the Tuition Assistance Program.

"I am very upset with the fact that tuition money has been swept into the general fund to help defray the deficit," said Carl Hayden of Elmira, chairman of SUNY's Board of Trustees. "My personal view is that it is a breach of faith with SUNY students and their families."

Hayden said he understands everyone must sacrifice in difficult times, but "tuition money is trust money. It is money paid for by families for preserving the quality of education."

SUNY trustees voted last year to boost tuition by $620 a year, or 14 percent, to $4,970. The first half was due this semester. Their intention was to keep the extra money to help offset some of more than $210 million in state funding reductions this fiscal year.

Paterson's 2009-10 proposed budget reduces SUNY operating funds by 80 percent of what is collected in higher tuition. That would leave $122 million for the state to help reduce the projected $13 billion deficit.

The governor's recommended budget would reduce SUNY's budget by $140 million next year, according to SUNY. That includes a 10 percent reduction in aid to community colleges, use of campus revenue funds, and other measures. Matt Anderson, a spokesman for Paterson's Budget Division, defended the use of new tuition money.

"It is important to note, however, that this proposal represents the first time in recent state history that a tuition increase will provide for an expanded investment in the SUNY system, which is a fundamental break from past practice and an important step forward," he said.

Student leaders said in a statement that the use of the tuition hike shows "neglect of the SUNY system" and "complete disregard" for students and families. It will lead to fewer course offerings, larger class sizes, less-qualified professors, and almost no new purchases of instructional equipment at a time when more New Yorkers than ever attend SUNY, they said.

"I never could have dreamed of such a gross misuse of my tuition dollars; we have truly seen the ultimate bait and switch in Albany," said Jacob Crawford, a SUNY trustee and Student Assembly president. He is a SUNY Albany student. For a growing number of New Yorkers, SUNY is the only affordable college option, Student Assembly spokesman David Belsky of Queens said.

"This coup on students' tuition paired with the reduction in state support will lead to a lower quality of education than students paid for," said Belsky, a Binghamton University graduate who is in a SUNY Albany master's program. Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, said when SUNY's new chancellor gets hired, "there'll have to be some serious discussions on how that person interacts with the Legislature and lobbies forcefully." SUNY is nearing completion of a chancellor search.

"There has to be a more energetic response, and not just from SUNY central (administration), but from the parent community. People have to hear from their constituents that they've very disturbed and that they are largely middle-class people who view this as a tax," Glick said. "They'd be happy to pay it if it went to...improving the quality of education, more full-time faculty, better facilities, more sections of courses."

Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Toby Stavisky, D-Queens, said she would have preferred the tuition increase not to be swept into the general fund, but lawmakers had to vote on a whole package.

"Going forward, we're going to do the best we can not to have this repeated in 2009-10," she said.

Stavisky noted that SUNY and City University of New York community colleges were slated to lose a total of $15 million in this week's package, but that was removed. The federal economic-stimulus money, part of which will go to education, will help in developing next year's budget, she said.

The Senate Republican conference opposed using the new tuition funds to help reduce the state deficit this year, said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County.

"We believe that it's an ill-advised raid on SUNY, which breaks a promise to middle-class families who are working harder than ever to pay for college," Reif said.

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