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Educators to Albany: It’s Time to Invest in Higher Education

United University Professions president Frederick Kowal rallied with 400 faculty and staff in Albany on Thursday. (UUP)
February 26. 2016
United University Professions president Frederick Kowal rallied with 400 faculty and staff in Albany on Thursday. (UUP)

ALBANY, N.Y. - City and state university faculty and staff held a "Higher Education Action Day" rally on Thursday in Albany, urging the Legislature to increase support for the university systems.

SUNY and CUNY have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding since 2008. Frederick Kowal, president of United University Professions, which represents faculty on SUNY state-operated campuses, said the state needs to use part of the budget surplus to create a permanent endowment for the schools, "so that, whether the economy is booming or in decline, there will be a source of funding that can be used to continue to grow the university, to ensure that students graduate on time."

New York is one of the few states that has no endowment for its public universities.

Kowal also called on the Legislature to pass a Maintenance of Effort bill to ensure that student tuition is used for education, rather than school operating costs. According to Kowal, the share of costs coming from the state has been flat, while expenses have grown.

"Only approximately 35 percent of the cost of a SUNY education comes from state dollars," he said. "The rest is covered by tuition, and we see that as untenable in the long run."

A Maintenance of Effort bill passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The educators also want lawmakers to restore an $18 million spending cut for the system's three teaching hospitals that was proposed in the Executive Budget. Kowal said those hospitals are vital assets in their communities, and key resources for SUNY's four medical schools, which produce more doctors than 45 other states.

"Those hospitals are crucial for medical care," he said, "and for the education of our future doctors."

Kowal said he believes there is strong support for increased funding for the state universities, in both the Assembly and state Senate.

More information is online at uupinfo.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY