Tuesday, April 29, 2008

To the Barricades!

Just when you thought New York State couldn't treat SUNY worse, the Division of Budget comes up with a new trick. First, do the raise expectations/make cuts two-step. Then, undermine the Legislature's restoration of some of the funds cut by Governor Paterson from SUNY by freezing $110M of SUNY's overall budget: tuition and fees dollars can be collected, but not spent.

NYSUT responded last week to this latest move. Here's what UUP President Phil Smith is distributing to chapter leaders:

What does all of this mean to the University and, more importantly, to its constituencies who have had no warning that their contributions will be withheld?

It means that a portion of the tuition collected from students and their families will not be available to support their education ($34.4 million withheld). The result, when added to the impact of a $38 million State funding cutback in the enacted Budget, means that courses will be cancelled, class sizes will once again be increased and the overall quality of the University’s academic programming will certainly be diminished.

It means that a portion of the dormitory fees paid by students will be held back and not permitted to be expended on dormitory maintenance, security and student safety ($9.7 million).

It means that funds received by the hospitals from patients and third party insurance payments will be locked up ($43.0 million)--and the hospitals will be unable to use these revenues for the care of those who paid for health care. Coupled with the continued absence of State funding for mandatory costs, the quality and content of patient health care will surely suffer.

It means that almost $17 million in revenues from food services, bookstores and other user-based sources will be unavailable to maintain current operations.

Even the Long Island Veterans Home will be required to hold back on over $1.2 million.

The irony is that the year began with the promise of enhanced State support in line with the recommendations of the Commission on Higher Education, but could end with one of the most disastrous fiscal impacts in University history.

The key question for all of us to ask is why do this? There is no logical purpose. There is no apparent benefit to the State. There is no positive result for State taxpayers. There is, however, a very clear impact--on students and their families and on the citizens of this State who rely on the University for quality health care and services.

OK, let's tally this up. The Legislature controls tuition policy, but will never raise tuition or taxes in an election year. The Governor controls the DOB, which is looking to cut government spending in New York. There's plenty of money for construction projects, because the Legislature can issue bonds for them. So of course fees have gone up across the SUNY system. What's to stop the state from raiding them?

SUNY is going from state-supported to state-located to state-dismantled in a generation. Whee!

[Update: Somehow this IHE op ed and this Lumpenprofessoriat post seem apropos today.]

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