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More Elbow Room For SUNY Students (For Now)

August 28, 2007

Recent decreases in class sizes and increases in faculty count at the State University of New York (SUNY) could soon be lost, according to the union representing more than 32,000 academic and professional faculty on 29 State University of New York campuses.

Bill Scheuerman, president of United University Professions, worries the work Governor Spitzer and state lawmakers did to reduce class sizes, hire more faculty and add professors will be lost.

"We picked up a couple hundred new faculty two years running. So, we did make gains, but if enrollments continue to rise as we expect, those gains will be very marginal."

With retirements and an anticipated increase in freshman enrollment, Scheuerman estimates the system will need 1,500 new full-time faculty by fall 2008. SUNY's student population has risen by about 30 thousand over the last decade and, even with recent improvements in funding, Scheuerman says the SUNY system is still feeling the effect of tight budgets.

"The student-to-faculty ratio at SUNY, when you take away part-time faculty, is about 22-to-one, while it should be no more than about 17-to-one. We have to work to get there, but that’s what quality education is all about."

Last years' freshman class size at SUNY rose by 3 percent, and Scheurerman predicts a similar increase this year.

Only three years ago, SUNY students were finding it hard to graduate due to a shortage of faculty members for required courses.

Michael Clifford/David Law, Public News Service - NY