SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher urged state lawmakers today to increase funding for the state’s 64 public colleges and universities, saying the institutions are critical parts of their communities.
SUNY is in the middle of a five-year tuition increase plan, which increases tuition to students by $300 a year, part of the SUNY2020 initiative.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed an essentially flat budget plan for higher education Jan. 21. The aid would increase 0.8 percent, from $3.2 billion to nearly $3.3 billion.
“I respectfully ask the Legislature to consider restoring (aid) in the final 2014-15 budget,” Zimpher testified.
Zimpher said the budget includes reductions for Educational Opportunity Programs, which provide remedial help to students looking to enter college. She said the budget also doesn’t address the $82.2 million needed to fund recent collective bargaining agreements.
She said additional aid would help fund additional staff. SUNY wants to hire 250 new faculty.
Zimpher also asked the Legislature to double the $500 million allocated for capital projects at the campuses.
“That level of investment will address high-priority campus projects that advance technology innovation, promote sustainability and leverage private investment,” Zimpher said.
Cuomo has made SUNY a priority. He wants to allow companies to set up shop tax free near or on college campuses as a way to help the upstate economy.
But some lawmakers were skeptical of the program. Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said she support broad-based tax cuts.
“We pay taxes, why shouldn’t everybody pay taxes,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca.
SUNY Binghamton President Harvey Stenger praised the inclusion of $10 million for the college’s School of Pharmacy, saying the college is ready to move forward with the project.
Rockland Community College Cliff Wood said additional aid would help the area’s economic development efforts.