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Letter: New York State Failing Its SUNY Schools

It’s the time of the year when students attending the State University of New York will be heading home for the holidays to be with their families. While parents will be expecting good grades from their sons and daughters, the financial grade of the State University they attend suffers by comparison.

SUNY is failing, under the weight of a massive $410 million in state budget cuts in 18 months. That includes the $90 million midyear reduction ordered by the governor in October. The $410 million represents 17 percent of the University’s operating budget.

Students will have a lot more on their minds this holiday besides their grades. Their studies are being affected by state budget cuts. Some will be telling their parents that the courses they wanted to take in the spring – including some that are required for them to graduate – are not being offered or are full. That raises the grim prospect for parents of a delayed graduation, which would mean they’d be paying for another year – maybe even more – for their children to attend SUNY. New York families are already struggling to pay their bills in the midst of an economic slowdown. Paying for another year of college is the last thing they need.

If your child attends SUNY, ask him or her these five questions:

Are you in danger of not graduating on time? Were you able to register for the courses you need next semester? Are your classes larger? Can you meet with your professors and advisors, or are they swamped by SUNY’s surging enrollment? Are they getting the quality education you expected?

SUNY recently reported the biggest enrollment increase in its history. The number of students at SUNY’s four-year state-operated campuses increased by 3,711, ballooning to a total of 222,239 students.

At the same time, SUNY is left with fewer full-time faculty to teach an influx of additional students. In the past 15 years, the student population has risen by nearly 12 percent, while the ranks of full-time faculty have dwindled by 11 percent.

And how about families that are hoping to send their children to SUNY?

Families that are looking for an affordable and quality higher education? Tens of thousands of New York families who can’t afford private college tuitions are looking to enroll their children in SUNY. The result: stiffer competition for admission, meaning thousands of qualified students will find the doors to SUNY are closed.

The state is abdicating its responsibility for sustaining SUNY. In 1990, the state provided 75 percent of SUNY’s operating budget. Now, nearly 20 years later, as the result of the latest $90 million budget cut, students are for the first time financing more than half of the university’s operating budget.

We all know the state is facing a serious budget deficit, but we also know that the actions taken today will have repercussions for tomorrow. We cannot sacrifice the future of New York’s workforce who will power our economy by denying them access to the skills they will need to be gainfully employed. If we continue making the wrong choice by further cutting SUNY, we’re not solving New York’s financial crisis. We’d be prolonging it.

Whether you’re the parent of a SUNY student or not, we urgently ask for your help to protect SUNY. Please visit our Web site at www.uupinfo.org where you can send a message to the governor and your state lawmakers to reverse the $90 million cut and protect the university from further budget reductions.

You’ll be glad you did.

Phillip H. Smith

President of United University Professions

(United University Professions is the union representing 35,000 faculty and professional staff at SUNY’s 29 state-operated campuses.)