State funding for SUNY in steady decline
In the last four years, $6.2 million was cut in state tax support for The College at Brockport's operating budget.
Published: Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 15:03
Unexpected changes and serious cuts to SUNY's 2010-11 state operating budget are making the college administration work with an ever-decreasing budget. Brockport officials say they are trying to minimize the effect on students. However, 30 full-time equivalent staff positions were cut from the 2009-10 academic year to the 2010-11 academic year.
Lou Spiro, vice president for administration and finance, said administrative decisions are made with the intent to minimize impact on the "student experience."
"We're trying to maintain student services to the greatest extent possible," he said. "They may have to wait 10 more minutes on the phone, or see the lawn being cut every five days instead of every four, but we're trying to prevent some of those things from happening."
The college administration is also looking at each employee who wishes to separate from the college with a "great deal of scrutiny . as it is now imperative that the savings realized are used to offset our budget deficit," Spiro said.
The two programs available to faculty and staff members are the campus-based Voluntary Separation Agreement Program and the New York State Early Retirement Incentive Program. Applications for these aren't due until Sept. 15, however.
After the four-month stalemate in Albany, the SUNY Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act did not pass, TAP awards decreased by $75 and non-resident tuition rose by four percent.
But those are not the college's only worries.
SUNY was expecting a two percent increase in tuition, as outlined in Gov. Paterson's proposed executive budget and the rational tuition policy. The increase would have given Brockport an estimated $772,400 in additional tuition revenue.
Instead, the increase was cut from the budget July 1. Spiro said the cut exemplifies state control over SUNY.
"SUNY is heavily regulated," Spiro said. "It's one of the few public state systems of higher education that doesn't have control over tuition rates."
If passed, the Empowerment Act would have given SUNY control over setting different tuition rates, for individual campuses and program.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and other SUNY officials pushed hard for the Empowerment Act's passage for months.
"Not passing the Empowerment Act this budget cycle is a missed opportunity for the state of New York," Zimpher said in a statement. "Above all, we are concerned for SUNY's students and the state's economy."
Though SUNY has taken a blow, there is still a future for the specifics of the Empowerment Act.
Spiro believes the provisions in the act, will eventually enter the state legislature process again .
The SUNY Student Assembly, an organization for SUNY students to participate in University-wide governance, is also pushing to keep SUNY reform alive.
"The students of the SUNY system are still very disappointed with the New York State Legislature for their decision of not adopting any provisions in the Empowerment Act,"said Julie Gondar, president of the SUNY Student Assembly in a press release. "But we are moving on from this and forming something even greater; a legislative agenda formed by us, the students.
"This may be the end of the Empowerment Act but it is certainly not the end of a SUNY reform."
The Brockport Student Government (BSG) agrees with the SUNY State Assembly.
"We wish to express our vehement disapproval with New York State and its governing powers for intentionally failing to include the SUNY-CUNY Empowerment Plan in the past-due budget for the year," BSG wrote in a statement.
"Reform in the SUNY system is necessary and the agendas of political opponents do nothing but hamper the abilities of our college. The Empowerment Act was designed to foster a public education system that is accessible, affordable and provides a quality education.
"This college is rooted in the principle that the students come first. We at BSG decry the actions of our state government and urge them to reconsider the matter."
The state legislature has created a framework for future discussion about the provisions in the act.
The $210 million cut forced SUNY to allocate the reductions to individual campuses differently.
This resulted in an additional reduction of $1.2 million for The College at Brockport.
"These changes require a much greater sense of urgency to take major, substantial actions across the college as quickly as possible," Spiro said in an e-mail to faculty and staff.
In the last four years, $6.2 million was cut in state support from The College at Brockport's budget. The SUNY system has lost $634 million in state support in the last three years.
Cuts from state support for public higher education are becoming a national trend. According to highereducation.org, "as state appropriations for higher education are increasing per student, even as enrollment grows, the proportion of state budgets devoted to higher education declined nationally."
Lou Spiro says the cut reaffirms the trend in Brockport's operating budget sources. "Today, Brockport has 1/3 state support and 2/3 tuition," Spiro said. "Twenty years ago, it was the other way around.
The graph above (right or left) shows the flip flop of Brockport's budget source.
"There's a saying that goes, 'we've gone from state-owned, to state-related, to state-located,'" Spiro said.
Effects of Executive Budget
The current law still remains that the State Legislature has final say on both SUNY tuition rates and SUNY partnering with private entities for development.