The fiscal crisis at the State University of New York is real! Over the past three years, SUNY has seen a reduction of $1.1 billion in state support, or roughly, one-third of the University's operating budget.
The governor plans to decrease the SUNY budget by 10 percent on top of the 40 percent SUNY Fredonia has already lost. This translates into a point of fact that Fredonia has been forced to permanently eliminate 41 positions, which is more than 7 percent of its work force. An additional 21 positions will be held vacant for an extended period of time, and this was before the latest 10 percent reduction. The simple truth is, this loss cuts sharply into the very vitals of the university and critically strains Fredonia's desire to provide availability of academic programs and course options for its students.
SUNY Fredonia has been pushing for three items to help manage the current budget crisis. The first is to streamline the pre-approved procurement process. The second is to streamline the pre-approved process for private-public partnerships. And, the third is to develop a five-year scheduled approach on tuition. Forty-five states have a tuition plan, 20 of those have a cap system like the one SUNY has proposed. In the case of a tuition plan, schools would raise tuition by a small percentage every year. As tuition stands now, the system now leaves tuition at one rate and then hits the students with a dramatic increase in tuition costs. Developing a rational plan provides current and future students with a predictable and cost efficient tuition policy plan. I strongly encourage our policy makers in Albany to approve NOW such a rational tuition policy plan for the significant benefits it affords our students and thus contributing, in part, to the fiscal integrity of the University.
SUNY is a cultural and economic powerhouse: exemplary in teaching, creative in research, unique in development with a powerful economic impact on the state and the nation. The university is particularly noted for its innovative teaching protocols, dynamic relevant research, imaginative developmental strategies, and initiatives in community service. SUNY has fast become a model world class institution of higher education par excellence. Many of these quality indicators have advanced by the superb academic standing of our student body and their zest for learning and by the excellence provided by a scholarly, eminently distinguished faculty and staff. These hall marks of unique excellence are worthy of nurturing and preserving.
SUNY has expanded to include more than 465,000 students enrolled in 7,351 programs. It is the largest public university in the Unites States and one of the largest in the entire world. More students are enrolled in the SUNY System today than ever before. The SAT scores of our entering freshman class have increased dramatically.
There is no doubt, the magnitude of the cultural vibrancy of the University contributes to social well being of society as well as a valued source of stability in the economy. It functions as a powerful engine whose research operations serve as an important stimulus, creating new enterprises, new jobs, and attracting millions of research dollars to the region. The University plays a major role as an important economic stimulant for the State and for the various regions; and is likely to increase as the University expands and broadens its research efforts in a host of new business, professional, cultural, and scientific disciplines. The development of a high tech incubator initiative at SUNY Fredonia is a strategic prime example for economic revitalization and entrepreneurship development.
And further, in January of this year, SUNY Fredonia was one of 10 institutions in higher education in the U.S. designated to participate in a US funded program designated to develop new learning partnership with China. In this day and with the currency of our times, this is a strategic and prudent advancement.
It was Tapan Monroe, an economist for California who said, "Like steel and auto manufacturing during the 1900s, it is the universities which fuel the cultural setting and the economic engines of the current century."
The fiscal integrity of the University must be preserved and one of the initiatives to do so, is to establish a rational, predicable, and dependable tuition plan as proposed by the State University of New York. Believe in better. That is a necessary and prudent step in a right and pivotal direction. This is a call for action, not later but now - in real-time - for policy makers to do the right thing. And that is how I see it FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis. He is the co-author of a book entitled FIVE YEARS ON THE CUTTING EDGE and the author of a brand new children's book entitled TELL ME A STORY GRANDPA. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com