‘Pressure’ builds on SUNY, union says

During a stop in Buffalo on Monday, state Gov. Kathy Hochul announced nearly $4 billion in investments for Western New York — with $3.2 billion of those funds tied to aid for public school education in the region. She also announced $113 million for local paving and pothole repairs and $211 million in Department of Transportation capital projects for bridges.

When it came time to address a crisis with the State University of New York campuses, she was not as generous. While sprinkling $228,000 to Jamestown Community College, showering Niagara Community College with $2.2 million and pouring in another $8 million for Erie County Community College, no other institution was mentioned.

Higher education in the public sector, at this moment, remains on the ropes. Closer to home, Buffalo State University and SUNY Fredonia both report deficits of more than $16 million during this operating cycle. Nothing in Hochul’s University at Buffalo press briefing addressed those woes.

On the eastern side of the state that same day– in Albany — the United University Professions rallied on those concerns. Union members from 24 chapters across the state traveled to the capital for the daylong event.

It began with remarks from UUP President Fredrick E. Kowal, followed by a full day of meetings with state lawmakers to emphasize the need for funding to close the nearly $160 million operating deficits across 19 SUNY campuses and ensure that SUNY remains an affordable, accessible pathway to higher education for all New York students. The union also called on the Legislature to fully fund SUNY’s budget request of $175 million to stabilize the system’s three teaching hospitals.

“We cannot emphasize enough the pressure SUNY campuses and hospitals are under,” Kowal said. “Albany needs to act immediately to fill the gaping holes in higher education and healthcare funding. Governor Hochul stated a strong vision for SUNY last year, and though there is more support for SUNY in this year’s Executive Budget, it is not enough to overcome years of austerity under the previous administration. We urge our lawmakers to do their part to ensure the betterment of SUNY and preserve its affordability, and to include this much-needed funding in their budget proposals.”

While at UB, Hochul did announce $100 million for new and renovated research buildings, laboratories, and state-of-the art instrumentation at one of the SUNY centers. “I would like to thank Governor Hochul for her support and vision of excellence for SUNY and UB,” University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi said. “All of us at UB very much appreciate the governor’s investment in UB’s research enterprise–including our buildings and laboratories–and her commitment to ensure that we have the best educational and research facilities, which, combined, are driving educational excellence and innovation, and sustained economic prosperity for Western New York and New York state.”

Tripathi’s comments do not echo what other leaders are facing within the region. Even JCC, which received a small sum from Hochul at the announcement, has seen enrollment fall from 3,889 in 2011-12 to about 2,100 currently. SUNY Fredonia’s numbers just as alarming, falling 5,244 in 2011-12 to around 3,200 this spring.

UUP’s message in Albany this week was similar to the December event at Buffalo State, which highlighted the massive deficits.

The union is the nation’s largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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