A New Deal for SUNY and CUNY

BY THE FREDONIA UNIVERSITY SENATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

The following is the text of a resolution issued today by the Executive Committee of the State University of New York at Fredonia Senate Executive Committee on behalf of the Fredonia University Senate.

Resolution in Support of a New Deal for SUNY and CUNY
Fredonia University Senate Executive Committee,
on behalf of the Fredonia University Senate
24 December 2018

Whereas the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY), like other public higher education systems across the nation, in fulfilling their core academic missions, transform students’ lives and life chances and serve as a foundation for democracy, platform for civic engagement, engine of economic development, pathway to the middle class, magnet for population growth, and generator for creativity and innovation:

  • According to a November 2018 Rockefeller Institute report, SUNY’s economic impact is $28.6 billion, the State University of New York at Fredonia contributed to a Western NY SUNY economic impact of $4.37 billion, and every dollar invested in SUNY returns $8.17;
  • According to that same report, 78 percent of SUNY’s 633,000 bachelor’s degree graduates in 2006 worked in New York two years after graduation and 64 percent remained in the state eight years later;
  • According to a February 2015 UB Regional Institute report, Fredonia is by far the largest employer in the Fredonia/Dunkirk/Sherman area, with an economic impact of $157 million locally, $204.4 million regionally, and $330.8 million statewide in 2012-2013;
  • According to higher education scholars Walter McMahon and Christopher Newfield, decision-makers consistently underestimate higher education’s private non-market goods (on one’s health, longevity, happiness, human capital, working conditions, job type and benefits, control over consumption, savings, and family size, and children’s education and cognitive development), indirect private market benefits, nonmarket private benefits (both direct and indirect), and social goods (both direct and indirect), leading to an overemphasis on the “personal monetary benefit of a college degree,” although this is really “only about one-third” of its “overall value” (Newfield 71);

Whereas SUNY’s and CUNY’s successes before, during, and after the Great Recession have not been met by New York State with commensurate public investments in their core operating budgets:

  • State aid to SUNY has plummeted from $1.36 billion in 2007-2008 to $700 million in 2018-2019—a decrease of nearly 50 percent, or about a third of its core operating budget—while per-student funding for the senior colleges in CUNY has declined by 18 percent over the same period;
  • The Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) tuition credit—which requires SUNY and CUNY to credit students for any difference between tuition and the maximum TAP award—has resulted in a “TAP gap” that has rapidly expanded from under $20 million in 2012 to nearly $130 million in 2018;
  • With the implementation of the predictable tuition plan in 2011, tuition increases were supposed to be used to support investments in teaching faculty, instruction initiatives for on-time completion, and closing the TAP gap, yet in practice they have resulted in students and their families paying more for less—they now cover near 75 percent of the operating costs of the state’s four-year public colleges and universities, even as students encounter larger class sizes, limited course offerings, delays in graduation, a smaller proportion of full-time, tenure-track faculty, and, at Fredonia and other SUNY colleges and universities, the prospect of reductions or eliminations of degree programs;
  • When the Excelsior Scholarship was passed into law, the state promised to provide additional funding to serve the expected increase in enrollment at SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities, yet that aid has not materialized, although the pool of eligible Excelsior students has grown each year;
  • The current agreement regarding basic maintenance of effort (MOE) was intended to shield the four-year colleges in SUNY and CUNY from year-to-year cuts and fluctuating budgets, but in practice has created a ceiling rather than a floor for state funding;
  • If, as reliable sources suggest he has, the Governor were to veto the enhanced MOE bill (S.7259-A [LaValle]/A.10620 [Glick]), which was passed by the Legislature with near-unanimous support, it would mean that mandatory operating costs—such as utilities, building rentals, equipment and supplies, collective bargaining costs (including salary increases and fringe benefits), and tuition increases that widen the TAP gap—will continue to be borne by SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities rather than New York State, unless something changes during the 2019 budget process;

Whereas New York State’s ceding of national leadership in public investments in the core academic mission of public higher education has subjected four-year colleges and universities in SUNY and CUNY to gradual, growing, and immense pressures:

  • According to December 2018 testimony by United University Professions President Frederick Kowal, SUNY Comprehensive Colleges Buffalo State, New Paltz, and Plattsburgh are facing significant structural deficits, as are Binghamton University and Stony Brook University;
  • As state funding for Fredonia’s core operating budget has declined from an all-time high of $17.8 million in 2008-2009 to approximately $11.3 million in 2018-2019—for a cumulative loss over the last ten years of roughly $53.2 million (and, assuming 2 percent compounding annual inflation, roughly $74.3 million)—our structural deficit has grown significantly and our strategic reserves are on the verge of being exhausted;
  • Reliable sources indicate that two-thirds of SUNY’s four-year colleges and universities are or will soon be in a similar predicament as the one we face at Fredonia;

Whereas the Governor and Legislature have an historic opportunity and responsibility during this budget process to make New York State a national leader in sustainably and equitably funding its public university systems:

  • The Democratic Party controls every statewide political office and branch of state government in New York for the first time since 2011, after an election cycle in which college-educated voters accelerated their migration away from the Republican Party;
  • The Governor is approaching the start of his third term with a great deal of urgency, unveiling his 2019 Justice Agenda for his first 100 days in a December speech at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Center;
  • The Governor’s legacy and aspirations are at stake during the 2019 budget cycle;

Therefore be it Resolved, that the Fredonia University Senate urges Governor Cuomo to incorporate into his 2019 Justice Agenda and Executive Budget a truly FDR-inspired “new deal” for SUNY and CUNY, one that supports and advances our core academic missions;

And further be it Resolved, that the Fredonia University Senate calls on all Fredonia students, faculty, administrators, staff, retirees, and alumni to contact Governor Cuomo before New Year’s Day at https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form, and, as fellow citizens or residents of New York and supporters of public higher education, urge him to strike a new deal for SUNY and CUNY by incorporating enhanced MOE provisions into an Executive Budget that truly supports and advances our core academic missions;

And further be it Resolved, that the Fredonia University Senate thanks the President of the SUNY University Faculty Senate, the President of United University Professions, the SUNY Chancellor, and the Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees for their steadfast commitment to sustainable and equitable funding for public higher education in New York and requests that they individually and collectively urge Governor Cuomo to strike a new deal for SUNY and CUNY by incorporating enhanced MOE provisions into an Executive Budget that truly supports and advances our core academic missions;

And finally be it Resolved, that the Fredonia University Senate thanks all members of the New York State Legislature for their near-unanimous support of enhanced MOE, stands ready to work with any and all to ensure that the state contributes its fair share to SUNY and CUNY’s operating budgets through the regular budget process in 2019, and urges them to send a veto-proof enhanced MOE bill to the Governor within the first 100 days of the new session, should such provisions not be incorporated into his Executive Budget.

Sources and References

Bowen, Barbara, Testimony:  Maintenance of Effort Legislation for the City University of New York (CUNY), New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee, 5 December 2018.

Cuomo, Andrew, “What Would FDR Do?” Roosevelt House, Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, 17 December 2018.

Kowal, Frederick, Testimony:  On the Maintenance of Effort Provision, New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee, 5 December 2018.

McMahon, Walter, Higher Learning, Greater Good:  The Private and Social Benefits of Higher Education (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2009)

Newfield, Christopher, The Great Mistake:  How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2016)

Pallotta, Andy, Testimony: Maintenance of Effort for the State University of New York and the City University of New York, New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee, 5 December 2018.

Schultz, Lara, The Economic Impact of the State University of New York, Rockefeller Institute of Government, 1 November 2018.

UB Regional Institute, Fredonia:  The Economic Impacts of a University, University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, February 2015.

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