State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said on the Capitol Pressroom this morning that she spoke with the presidents of all four university centers after she and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program Monday. SUNY’s four major research universities — University at Buffalo, Binghamton University, University at Albany and Stony Brook University — are eligible for up to $35 million in grants, but they have to submit a plan about what facilities would be built, how much they would need in operating funds and how they would work with the private sector to develop their initiative.
NY SUNY 2020 is a spinoff of UB 2020, a University at Buffalo proposal to increase enrollment and help revitalize the city. That has been in the works for a few years. Legislation to adopt UB 2020 passed in the Senate but hasn’t been picked up in the Assembly. The other three research centers had been asking for similar authority, and this is what the Cuomo administration and SUNY have come up with.
The campuses have to submit proposals for the grants by the end of the year. “He (Cuomo) opened the door wide to any of the four who were ready to pursue plans. I’d be totally surprised if we didn’t hear from all four campuses sooner rather than later,” Zimpher said today.
Zimpher said SUNY and the research centers are “totally in motion.”
When asked if this was a let down for UB 2020, Zimpher said it is not. The UB 2020 plan has called for several billion dollars in state funds, but it is going to be scaled back.
Zimpher said it’s a classic case of whether the glass is half full or half empty. “We had no traction until Monday,” she said of the UB 2020 legislation. “Now we have a governor out in front of the parade, saying, ‘I want to compliment what has been done.'”
The governor also backed SUNY’s five-year plan to increase tuition up to 5.5 percent a year, and students and families would be able to know ahead of time how much they will pay for college. Under current tuition of $4,970, a 5.5 percent increase would be $275. Every major newspaper in the state has endorsed the concept, Zimpher noted. Legislation is pending in the Senate and Assembly.
It’s critical that the state not pull back further on the money it gives to SUNY and that tuition dollars stay at campuses, rather than make up the difference in a drop in state funding, Zimpher said.