UUP President Urges State to Commit to SUNY

Source: UUP Press Release

United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., today urged the state Legislature to make a real financial commitment to SUNY to begin reversing damage done by huge Great Recession-era cuts and years of flat funding for the University.

Part of that commitment includes establishing new, progressive revenue sources for public higher education in New York. UUP supports revenue-generating options such as an enhanced millionaire’s tax, a pied-a-terre tax, and removal of the carried interest loophole.

Kowal, who testified today at a public hearing conducted by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees, asked lawmakers to add $75 million to the budget to help close the TAP Gap — the portion of SUNY tuition campuses must waive and pay for TAP awardees.

The president of America’s largest higher education union pressed lawmakers to restore an $87 million subsidy to SUNY’s public teaching hospitals that was cut from the budget two years ago.

And he railed against a newly proposed 2-to-1 capital construction matching funds program, which would force SUNY campuses to contribute $1 for every $2 in state capital spending—or a third of the cost of capital projects. The Executive Budget sets aside $200 million for new projects that can only be accessed if campuses match those funds.

Kowal said that budget proposals from the governor and SUNY—it was SUNY that hatched the matching capital spending plan—would divide campuses into “haves and have-nots.”

“The budget proposals of both the Chancellor and the Executive Chamber are creating a two-tiered state University—one where larger campuses that bring in private dollars are able to keep their heads above water, and where our smaller, but no less vital, technical and comprehensive campuses are left to wither on the vine,” Kowal said.

The union’s asks come with recognition of the state’s $6 billion budget deficit, most of it due to a $4 billion Medicaid funding shortfall. But SUNY campuses are still financially staggered by the state’s continued disinvestment in the University; direct state aid has dropped by about $660 million from 2007-08 to 2019-20, a decrease of nearly 50 percent, or a third of SUNY’s core operating budget. Flat budgets have exacerbated the situation, Kowal said.

UUP’s NY25 proposal, a bold, realistic long-term plan for SUNY, provides solutions to many of the problems faced by campuses and the University. The plan would keep SUNY accessible and affordable, create a sustainable future for SUNY and establish reliable revenue streams for public higher education in New York.

“We understand the difficult financial situation the state is facing,” Kowal said. “But not investing in SUNY and continuing to hollow out the greatest educational opportunity for upward mobility of our next generation is the wrong choice.”

A host of campuses, including the University of Albany, Buffalo State, SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Fredonia are actively working to close budget gaps. Binghamton University and Stony Brook University have instituted hiring freezes to reduce budget shortfalls.

Closing the TAP Gap—which was about $72.7 million last year and is expected to top $75 million in 2020-21—will free up funding for cash-strapped campuses, allowing them the ability to expand course offerings and provide important student services.

If the governor’s Executive Budget plan to extend rational tuition increases through 2024-25 is adopted, the TAP Gap will grow by $1,000 per eligible TAP student to $3,070 in 2020-21. Campuses are required to pay those costs; the state only covers 62 percent of SUNY tuition for TAP students. More than 40 percent of TAP students attend SUNY schools; over a third of SUNY students at state-operated campuses receive TAP aid.

“There is a path forward for New York State to make smart investments and to ensure a more fair and just society through education and opportunity,” Kowal said.