Wednesday, February 14, 2024

My Valentine's Day Message to Senators

 ...can be found here!  Topics covered:

New SUNY Economic Impact Study from the Rockefeller Institute of Government Is Out!!

I've been waiting for this for a long time. It's Happy Valen-data Day over here in this little corner of Blogaramaville!

Thursday, February 08, 2024

CitizenSE News Roundup

 Quick-hit post tonight:

Saturday, February 03, 2024

On the Work of Public Higher Education: Putting JoAnn Niebel and John B. King, Jr., in Dialogue

Now that the semester's started, I've been a lot less active here than I was over the winter break.  That's partly because I needed to be most active here in the weeks and days before Governor Hochul's State of the State Address and release of the State Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget.  But it's mostly because I've been doing the work that comes with the first two weeks of classes:
  • keeping up with the reading load that I've assigned in my Fantasy Fiction and Critical Reading classes;
  • getting to know my new students and adjusting my teaching plans accordingly;
  • holding a minimum of ten office hours per week (to be available to the nearly 60 students in my classes, about a dozen advisees, and colleagues I represent and work most closely with as chair of the Fredonia University Senate, immediate past chair of the English Department, member of the United University Professions Chapter Executive Board, and English Committee member who's part of a team currently shepherding a revision to the English B.A. through the SUNY approval process);
  • supporting the planning of campus events, including Fredonia's Writers @ Work, which is fast approaching the hosting of its 50th alumni writer-in-residence (from multiple majors and on many career paths);
  • attending campus events (including a powerful call to action from Dr. Shaun Nelms as part of Fredonia's Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration and a moving memorial to Dr. Shannon Jonas, the only poet in the Fredonia English department, who died far too young, suddenly and unexpectedly, just before Christmas, but who lives on in his family, friends, and students);
  • speaking at the campus kickoff event (which was delayed by more than a week due to the mid-January double blizzard);
  • contributing to the UFS Executive Committee's work as its Immediate Past Vice President/Secretary (which includes planning the Public Good U conference this November, and more I touch on below);
  • leading the SUNY University Faculty Senate Governance Committee (we're putting the finishing touches on a toolkit on campus free speech that builds on UFS resolution 196-01-1 [Ensuring Non-Discrimination, Enhancing Campus Inclusivity, and Supporting All SUNY Students, Faculty, and Staff], which began as a suggestion and draft from us, among many projects this academic year);
  • leading the Fredonia Senate (our first meeting of the spring semester is this coming Monday), Senate Executive Committee (on which more below), and informal Senate leadership team (which includes everyone with an expectation of confidentiality [Executive Committee members and co-chairs of the Planning and Budget Committee]).
So all in all it's actually been a pretty normal start to a spring semester—especially now that everything except the largest snow piles is melted and there's nothing but pretty decent weather for this time of year on the horizon.  Sure, given my course releases from being English Department chair from 2015-2021 academic years and Senate chair during the 2022-2024 academic years, my service load may be a little heavier than most, but if you check in on any faculty member at Fredonia this weekend, you'd find a similar overall level of activity and accomplishment.  We all know that spring semesters are always busy, always intense, always starting at full speed and accelerating from there.

Most of all, spring is when the budget season and the recruitment season kick into high gear.  And because of that, I'm taking a little pause from some of my additional confidential work (fulfilling the charge at this stage of Fredonia's Program Deactivation Review Process [PDRP]; researching and writing for the UFS team that's crafting a statement in response to Governor Hochul's Executive Budget; learning more about a regional advocacy team that's being assembled; supporting campus governance leaders at campuses in similar situations as Fredonia's) to respond to a January 27th op-ed in the Dunkirk Observer from a former member of the Fredonia College Council and adjunct lecturer in Sociology, JoAnn Niebel, and a January 31st interview on the Capitol Press Room with SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr.

As much as I appreciate, like, and respect both of them, I also disagree with them on some pretty important matters.  By putting them in dialogue on enrollment and state support, financial distress and financial responsibility, and college affordability and state financial aid in what follows, I'll set up my own ideas for solutions and make clear when, where, how, and why I agree, and disagree, with them.

Enrollment and State Support

JN:  RECRUITMENT ENROLLMENT RETENTION — this should be the major effort by this administration, Campus wide and community driven....  I truly respected President Dennis Hefner and the impact he made.  I was always encouraged because at every meeting he emphasized the importance of Recruitment, Enrollment and Retention!  He was enthusiastic and driven and as an economist very aware of the financial impact of tuition dollars.  He was always true BLUE and he directed a period of tremendous growth at Fredonia.  There is no reason this cannot be repeated.
JK:  The good news is enrollment going up is good for the financial picture of the SUNY system as a whole.  I'd say alongside enrollment is the question of state support....  We are clear that over time we are going to need significant state investment to keep up with growing expenses.... Certainly, we negotiated a really strong contract with UUP—well-deserved raises for faculty.  That's going to cost us about 86 million dollars this year.  We'd love help covering those costs....

According to the SUNY Report on Long-Term Enrollment and Financial Sustainability, Fredonia had the second-largest one-year drop in undergraduate enrollment (-10.6%) among SUNY's comprehensive colleges and universities and third-largest in the entire system, as well as the second-largest one-year drop in total headcount (-7.8%) in the system; over a ten-year period, Fredonia was also next-to-last, with a 40.3% decline in total headcount (25, 27, 29).  Nobody disputes that everyone at Fredonia needs to pull together to figure out what in all our past and recent efforts has been working and what new approaches need to be developed to arrest and start reversing these trends.  Like Professor Niebel, I am encouraged that our new Vice President of Enrollment Management and Services Kathryn Kendall is a Fredonia alum and has already hit the ground running in her first week on the job.  I look forward to speaking with her at Monday's Senate meeting.

And yet, enrollment is only part of the story across SUNY and at Fredonia.  As I've been repeating until I'm blue in the face, and as Chancellor King himself emphasizes in his interview with David Lombardo, state investments matter.  And cuts to Fredonia's direct state aid preceded and remain deeper than Fredonia's enrollment declines; in fact, the deepest cuts came while our enrollments were rising.

This is why a commitment by New York State to funding the contractual increases it's negotiated with its statewide unions across SUNY and CUNY—which the Fredonia University Senate and the SUNY UFS have been calling for, for years—would be such a game-changer for places like Fredonia that have become so tuition dependent as a result of long-term state disinvestment in core operating support.  Finally refusing to pass along the cost of contractual increases to the campuses would go a long way toward "putting an end to the era of annual real-dollar operating budget cuts" to SUNY and CUNY that both governance bodies have been calling for, as well.

It's clearly going to take a concerted political effort to get NYS's political system and leaders to prioritize making our state the national leader in college affordability and in sustainably and equitably supporting and advancing the mission of public higher education—the national leader in funding and pricing SUNY and CUNY like the public goods they are.

Financial Distress and Financial Responsibility

JN:  After being on the College Council for 26 years I have never been more concerned about the future of the campus than at this time.
JK [addressing the question of directing "targeted" or "bridge" funding to distressed campuses in next year's Enacted Budget]:  Well, look, alongside investment has to come responsible fiscal stewardship.  We can't have faculty teaching to empty classrooms.  And so every campus, whatever their financial picture, should be looking at their programs and asking, "is this a program where there's real student demand and real community need?"  And when you have a major, for example, that has two students in it, that's not something that can be supported long-term.  And so you've either gotta find a way to increase student interest or demand, or you've gotta look at that program and say, "is this really something we should continue doing."  ....We are not going to be a place where every conceivable major is offered on every campus, but, as a system, we can offer literally anything that a student is interested in studying, and on every campus, students are going to get a rich liberal arts education that's going to involve study in a range of fields.  [On campuses where enrollment stabilization rather than increase is the goal and where "adjustments in staffing, programs, and infrastructure to match being a much much smaller campus" are needed so they can be "long-term, sustainable,"] they do have to make some financial choices that are difficult but important to make them sustainable.
JN:  [T]he truth is no money is attached to a “major” and no money is saved by eliminating them.  The savings would only come from eliminating budgeting to that program — faculty, support staff, technical support, etc.  But not one word has been said about those efforts — for example, will there be layoffs?  ...Time wasted on efforts that will bring little to no measurable improvement should become secondary.  SUNY Fredonia means so much to the campus community and impacts the surrounding communities in multiple ways!  We are definitely on the precipice—we cannot fall into the abyss!

Chancellor King has made it crystal clear that he needs to see significant efforts from financially distressed campuses to climb out of the budgetary holes they are in as a result of the combination of decreases in direct state aid and in enrollment that I discussed in the last section.  Given multiple opportunities in his latest interview, he refused to endorse calls from campus governance bodies or unions or legislative leaders for ladders of dedicated new state funding to be extended into those budget holes, or even any climbing ropes than enrollment-directed ones.  And he's remained steadfast in his position that every SUNY campus has needs, challenges, and opportunities, so every campus needs funding increases, and it would neither be fair nor strategic to focus limited investments only on the most struggling campuses.  But where does this leave Fredonia and others like us?

I understand that as the leader of an entire system, Chancellor King needs to balance the needs of every part of that system.  And I'm glad he quickly backpedalled from that "empty classrooms" quip.  First off, not all teaching occurs in a classroom.  There can be all kinds of good reasons for an institution to invest in high-quality, high-engagement, very small classes such as internships, undergraduate research opportunities (labs, theses, assistantships, etc.), music lessons, independent studies, and so on.  And even if a major is very small, faculty teach all kinds of courses, not just upper-level courses that can be taken only by majors (of which there are fewer than you might expect).  Moreover, Fredonia has been focusing on curricular efficiency for over a decade, which means that any section with fewer than 12 students requires a special justification from the chair and dean to continue running.  After working with the Delaware Cost Study, Ad Astra, and EAB over the years, Fredonia puts together one of the most efficient class schedules in the nation, every single semester.  Furthermore, every new faculty line in the last decade has had to be fought for and justified in the face of incredibly strict scrutiny, while retirements and other kinds of attrition in many academic areas have led to incredible shrinking faculties in many departments.

So I question Chancellor King's implication that campuses in financial distress have brought their problems on themselves over the last decade through inaction or other failures of fiscal responsibility, when in fact we've saved over $20M at Fredonia over that time period through a combination of strategies, including curricular efficiency and curricular transformation, but also, unfortunately, radically reducing staffing in non-instructional areas where workers are part of CSEA, as well.  It's precisely because we've become so good at controlling non-personnel costs and directing significant resources toward instructional costs that we face the current dilemma:  how to advance curricular transformation and innovation in smart, strategic ways that will lead to enrollment stabilization and growth, minimizing harm to student retention, success, recruitment, and actual faculty whose teaching conditions, after all, are student learning conditions?

If Chancellor King will not rethink how SUNY allocates the state operating funds it receives for next year's budget, how will Fredonia keep from falling from the "precipice" into the "abyss" Professor Niebel warns about?  Her language here reminds me of my October 2023 message:

Why is it that everyone involved in designing and running the marathon of the last two decades—from New York State Governors and legislative leaders to SUNY Chancellors and SUNY Fredonia Presidents—has been complicit in kicking the financial sustainability and stewardship can down the road?  That longstanding efforts by United University Professions and the SUNY University Faculty Senate, among many others, to point to the unsustainability and inequities of New York State’s funding model for SUNY—and to offer alternatives and solutions—repeatedly get dismissed, delayed, deferred?

What seems to be happening across New York State is a realization that this situation is untenable, that kicking the can down the road is becoming an ever-riskier option as the marathon’s course rises and narrows—and as that cliff on the other side of those increasingly rusty guardrails with the concerning number of rusted-out sections becomes deeper, steeper, and more jagged with every kick.

What remains to be seen is what follows from this realization.

I would submit today that New York State's elected and appointed leaders are no closer to taking responsibility for their own financial decision-making regarding public higher education than they were when I wrote this nearly four months ago.

This ties to the reason I gave SUNY's Report on Long-Term Enrollment and Financial Sustainability only a B+  just over a month ago, despite writing that "it may well be the best piece of research, analysis, and writing to come out of SUNY System Administration in my 25-year-plus career at Fredonia."  To be frank, it's A-level work all the way up until the Financial Sustainability section, where it barely rises to a C and may actually be incomplete.  After nearly two years to put together this report, where is the analysis of costs of instruction and total non-instructional costs—including breakdowns such as costs of academic support, other student services, Management/Confidential administrators, UUP professionals, and CSEA workers—on every campus, over time?  Where is the response to the SUNY UFS's April 2022 Costs of Administration Study resolution 191-02-1?  Where is even the acknowledgment of receipt of the Fredonia University Senate's October 2023 Public Good Index resolution?  Where is the system-wide data on section sizes, faculty FTE/student credit hour ratios, costs and revenues per credit hour, student progress toward degree, and other measures that would help chairs and deans build efficient schedules, identify obstacles and chokepoints on the path toward graduation, and response to Sandy Baum's and Michael McPherson's call to examine "spending patterns, attempting to analyze which programs [instructional and non-instructional] are particularly important for student success" (Campus Economics [2023], 102).  There is so much data that SUNY System Administration should be collecting, using to create dashboards, and providing to campuses to help them make the difficult financial decisions that Chancellor King is calling for.

I've been looking at budget books and listening to campus Presidents and Chief Financial Officers for a very long time.  And I can think of fewer than five years out of my 25+ at Fredonia that we weren't facing some kind of deficit, including many years when our enrollments were much higher than they are now.  So if Chancellor King is committed to the long-term sustainability of campuses like Fredonia's, at some point he's going to have to make it clear what balance of public and private revenues he expects us to arrive at.  Which means making it clear what SUNY System is willing to invest in recurring direct state operating aid to Fredonia to get us to that equilibrium.  At some point this year, he's going to have to put his cards on the table.

College Affordability and State Financial Aid

JK:  SUNY's tuition is extraordinarily affordable, just over seven thousand dollars.  It's more affordable than many of our neighboring state peers.  So that commitment to affordability has to be matched by a commitment to continued investment in the SUNY system, if we're going to be financially sustainable.
JN:  The annual tuition at Fredonia is $23,960.

There are several different ways of understanding college affordability.  This exchange between Chancellor King and Professor Niebel illuminates the difference between tuition on its own (~$7K) and the total price of attendance (~$24K).  We know that over half of SUNY's students attend tuition-free and almost half of SUNY's students graduate debt-free, thanks to federal, state, university, and private sources of financial aid.  But what about the other half?  And what about the students who choose more affordable options?

As the father of a 20-year-old college sophomore and a 17-year-old high school senior, one of the biggest things that matters to me is the net price of attendance for a year of college for my daughters.  My older daughter is attending a small liberal arts college for about $7K less per year than the nearest competitors (which included other small liberal arts colleges such as my own alma mater Hamilton College—and UB).  I've argued repeatedly here and elsewhere that SUNY needs to get serious in the net price wars, the inevitable tuition and other discounting that higher education institutions of all types and sizes can't help but avoid in the decade-plus of the "demographic cliff" that's New York will go over in 2025.

This is why I'm so excited that so many players are lining up—from campus and system governance bodies to higher education unions, from SUNY to CICU, from Senator Stavisky to Assemblymember Fahy to NYPIRG—to pressure the federal government to increase the value of the Pell scholarship, the state government to #TurnOnTheTAP, and both to rethink long-standing income thresholds and other barriers to eligibility.  Yes, it's no substitute for further increases to direct state aid for public higher ed, and should not be pitted against those increases.  But when 91% of Fredonia's Class of 2019 took on some debt, you know there's an affordability crisis for those who would benefit the most from a Fredonia education.

I would include among that population a fairly strong proportion of the students graduating this year in the top 10% of their high schools.  Given disparities in local property tax bases and historic patterns of state underfunding of public schools in lower-income zip codes, many students across the state will not be as well-prepared to excel as their better-funded peers on SUNY's most selective campuses—which turn out to be its largest campuses, by and large, which turn out to be its research institutions, which turn out to not have invested in faculty teaching as much as at places like Fredonia.  Geneseo doesn't have the capacity or the program mix to meet all their needs.  For most of my career, Fredonia was a selective institution; it's only in recent years that we started accepting more than 50% of our applicants.  Thus, we're well-placed to help less-well-funded students among the top 10% succeed.

The Fredonia University Senate called attention to the cost of attendance (again) back in October 2023, offering many solutions.  So let's turn to Baum and McPherson again to set up what we're calling for:

Children from different racial and ethnic groups, at different levels of income and wealth, and with parents with different educational backgrounds grow up in vastly different circumstances[.] These differences are associated with how well prepared they are for college, how well they can navigate the enrollment process, and what kinds of external support—financial, academic, and social—they need to succeed in college....  As campuses strive for greater diversity and inclusion, they need to accept the need to invest in creating a culturally responsive environment that will encourage all students to see themselves as full members of the campus community.  These efforts involve costs that must be factored into the finances of the institutions....  There is strong evidence suggesting that reductions in expenditures resulting from the failure of state appropriations to keep up with rising enrollments have contributed measurably to increases in time to degree and declines in completions rates, particularly at institutions educating less well-prepared students. (11, 17, 20)

Their footnote points us to a 2007 study on "cohort crowding" by Bound and Turner and a 2017 study on "the impact of price and spending subsidies on U.S. postsecondary attainment" by Deming and Walters. Zachary Bleecher, Mukul Kumar, Aashish Mehta, Chris Muellerleile, and Christopher Newfield make a similar point in Metrics That Matter:  Counting What's Really Important to College Students (2023):

[In Crossing the Finish Line (2009),] Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson found that the less students actually pay, the more likely they are to graduate....  A student with more grants, fewer loans, and less financial "self-help expectation" (an amount the student must find a way to pay themselves) can work less while in college and therefore study more.  A student who studies more and who has more flexibility in their schedules to pour extra effort into courses that are hard for them is more likely to do well academically and to graduate.  (46-47)

Think their sources are too old to be relevant?  Check out this May 2021 report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO).  Check out Jonathan Turk's essay in Unlocking Opportunity through Broadly Accessible Institutions, ed. Gloria Crisp, Kevin McClure, and Cecilia Orphan (2022), which concludes that "Greater financial and human resources will be needed in order for many B[roadly]A[ccesible]I[nstitution]s to be able to provide the comprehensive student support services that many of their students require in order to graduate" (195) and ends on this note:

Federal and state need-based grant aid programs should be expanded—e.g., in increasing the maximum Pell Grant award—and should receive, at minimum, yearly inflationary increases.  State governments should reinvest in higher education by restoring appropriations to colleges and universities to help lower their reliance on tuition and fees.  Furthermore, states should provide additional funding to support the expansion of student support programs and services at broadly accessible and open-access institutions.  Finally, colleges and universities must take into account the full costs of college when putting together financial aid packages.  This includes addressing housing costs and food insecurity.  BAIs are routinely tasked with doing more, with significantly fewer resources than their more selective counterparts.  More resources must be made available to these institutions so that they may better support student success and greater equity in society through higher education. (196)

I could do this all day, but I have other things to do this weekend.  The work of making public higher education a true public good is ongoing, but not perpetual for any individual! 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Syllabi Alert!

It's been a while since I shared my syllabi here, so without further ado, here are my syllabi since my sabbatical in AY 2021-2022:

This will be my last semester of my second one-year term as chair of the Fredonia University Senate, so I'll return to a full teaching load in Fall 2024 for the first time since Spring 2015 (I was chair of the Fredonia English Department for two three-year terms from Fall 2015-Spring 2021).  See my c.v. for all the details....

My Mid-Academic Year Plenary Address

Here's the link to my kickoff talk for the Spring 2024 semester (delayed about nine days by the double blizzard).  What you won't find in it is my reference to The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want"—the last song to play on my commute—which I used at the beginning and end of the talk as you'd expect (and which set off a blizzard of Stones references by later speakers)!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

For Those Just Tuning In

This post is a response to a colleague and friend in another state university system who asked for "a paragraph or two about your struggles that I could crib for my union email blast," as well as a way of organizing my thoughts before I meet with the Buffalo State College Senate's leadership team on the SUNY Buffalo State campus this afternoon.  It's also going to be a reflection on the ways that union and governance leadership roles, goals, and interests overlap, as well as on some approaches for coordinating efforts even when they diverge.  It draws on and distills my messages to Senators since becoming Fredonia University Senate Chairperson on July 1, 2022, as well as previous posts on this blog.

So here's the recap for those just tuning in.

Instead of funding and pricing the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) like the public goods they are, New York Democrats have engineered a massive decline in real-dollar direct state aid to both systems.  New York State had a Republican governor (George Pataki) for roughly the first 10 years of my career at SUNY Fredonia until Eliot Spitzer was elected in 2007.  Not long after a sex scandal in his first year in office brought Spitzer down, David Paterson had to deal with the Great Recession and then Andrew Cuomo had to deal with the deal the Obama administration cut with Republican leadership to send a large portion of the federal deficit down to the states.  Despite Democrats finally winning a majority in the New York State Senate in 2018 (long story) and supermajorities in both the Senate and Assembly since 2020, SUNY has been underfunded on the order of $8B (inflation-adjusted) in direct state operating aid since the 2007-2008 state fiscal year.  SUNY campuses have been covering the shortfalls by burning through both their reserves and federal pandemic funding.  With both running out on many SUNY campuses, Governor Kathy Hochul (who moved up from Lt. Governor after Cuomo's own sex scandal) has begun moving the needle in the opposite direction from her predecessors, but not as far or as fast as supporters of public higher education in the Assembly and Senate have pushed for, and nowhere close to what SUNY or CUNY need.

At SUNY Fredonia, real-dollar cuts to direct state aid not only preceded drops in enrollment, but were steepest while our enrollments were growing:

And those cuts add up, to the tune of over $167M in inflation-adjusted dollars, and almost $120M in enrollment- and inflation-adjusted dollars:

SUNY's faculty-professionals union, United University Professions (UUP), the SUNY University Faculty Senate (UFS [track recent resolutions here and older resolutions here]), and many campus union chapters and governance bodies, including the Fredonia University Senate, have been sounding the alarm on these deepening budget holes on many campuses for many years.  SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr., and SUNY System Administration warned in a report released at the end of 2023 that without an increase in revenues, SUNY would face a $1.1B deficit in the coming decade.  Governor Hochul's Executive Budget proposal for state fiscal year 2025 did nothing to change that trajectory (although to be fair she has supported System efforts to increase enrollments across SUNY), nor did it include any provisions called for in the SUNY Fredonia University Senate Executive Committee petition that ran from December 6, 2023, to January 17, 2024, which drew on the SUNY UFS October 2023 Executive Budget resolution.

So where do we stand now?

  • UUP is fighting a multiple-front battle at Potsdam, Fredonia, and Downstate to preserve historic gains in its latest round of contract negotiations with New York State, defend its members, and advance SUNY's mission and the students, patients, and communities its campuses and hospitals serve.
  • SUNY UFS is pushing for meaningful faculty involvement in curricular decision-making, even in conditions of financial stress.
  • The Fredonia University Senate Executive Committee and President's Cabinet have agreed on a timeline for what we're calling a Program Deactivation Review Process, which develops a process for consultation on these administration-initiated proposals that were announced on December 6, 2023, as part of President Kolison's Roadmap to Financial Stability.
Going forward, many issues need to be resolved:
  • the overall balance of public and private revenue sources for public higher education in New York State, which has shifted sharply toward the latter since the Rockefeller years;
  • the net cost of attendance for SUNY students, the percentage of students going into debt to cover that cost, and the amount of debt they accrue, all of which are much higher for recent than older generations;
  • SUNY System Administration's approach to allocating state operating funds to different sectors and campuses at a time when Governor Hochul seems intent on turning UB and Stony Brook into flagships.
Most important, proponents of Public Good U are going to have to develop an effective inside-outside game plan and execute it in the coming months during state budget negotiation season and admissions season:
  • Inside:
    • develop a coordinated advocacy strategy advancing shared objectives
    • develop and implement System-level and campus-level strategic plans
  • Outside:  through student-community-labor coalitions and campaigns,
    • put public pressure on elected officials in an election year for every state legislative seat;
    • encourage prospective students to choose the right SUNY for them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

New York State Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget: SUNY Scorecard

Here's my first pass at Governor Hochul's Executive Budget proposal for next fiscal year.  It focuses on what in SUNY System Administration's budget request shows up in the Executive Budget for SUNY.  SUNY System's analysis just dropped, so to maintain the independence of my analysis, I'm going to post this before I read theirs....

The lines in bold are from SUNY System Administration's Report on Long-Range Enrollment and Financial Sustainability, with color coding as follows:

  • Green = got the funding
  • Yellow = can't tell
  • Pink = not quite/not yet
Let's start with direct state aid and capital funding.

  • Maintain Investment in Four-Year Campus Operating Aid Increases: +$54.0M
The SUNY report emphasized that "The 2023-24 Enacted State Budget Financial Plan, as well as its Mid-Year Update, includes additional incremental direct operating aid to SUNY’s State-operated campuses and statutory colleges of $54.0M in each of both 2024-25 and 2025-26, a total incremental add of $108.0M from 2023-24 Enacted levels" (pg. 66).  Given that Governor Hochul was making noise in early January about no new operational funding being available for SUNY, it's a good thing that she didn't go back on this commitment.  However, if this $54M is really just a way of continuing to offer state funding for the faculty hired originally through one-time funds a couple of budget years ago, this is not really "new" money. [Update (3:45 pm):  Good news!  The $54M here really is new funding.  The $53M for new faculty salaries is carried over in "University/System-wide Programs" funding.]
  • Provide Support for State-Negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement Implementation: +$86.5M (+$103M in Executive Budget moves existing money forward to June 2024; it's not new, recurring, direct state aid)
This is huge!!  It's rare for a 21st-century New York State governor to pay for the contractual increases negotiated by their own administration!  This alone seems to put New York State on a path to funding the $1.1B shortfall by 2034 that SUNY's report projected without increasing SUNY revenues over the next decade.  And the fact that Governor Hochul chose to do it this way, rather than proposing any tuition increases, is also a good move on college affordability and the balance of public and private revenue sources for public higher ed that I've been writing about here.  At the same time, given that the Executive Budget does not turn the SUNY Transformation Funds from one-time performance funds into recurring funds (see below for more on this), the actual net increase to SUNY funding is $19M.  So again, not as generous as it may at first appear. [Update (1/19/2024, 10:55 am):  Darn it, it's just moving money around, not a commitment to new funds to cover contractual increases.  I stand corrected!  On to the legislature to get this done!!] 
  • Maintain the 100% Community College Funding Floor: Avoidance of $85 Million in Lost Direct State Tax Support (actually, losses of ~$143M are projected to be avoided in the Executive Budget)
Another win, this time for struggling community colleges, but it's important to recall the floor was set at the then-lowest rate of community college funding in decades.
  • Investment in Critical Maintenance Capital Needs: $1.0B/+$450M ($650M/+$100M)
SUNY sought an "increase from the current $550.0M in the State Financial Plan to $1.0B per annum, a $450.0M per-year increase" (Report, pg. 67), but either there was no increase in Governor Hochul's capital funding proposal or there was a $100M increase (cp. pg. 31 and pg. 57/88/T-152 and the SUNY overview), so I'm guessing the latter.  SUNY and CUNY are sharing $200M in capital funding for "strategic initiatives" (p. 31), but it's unlikely any of this could be used to address the $8.6B in deferred maintenance, increased construction costs, and "planned demolitions at select campuses" identified in the SUNY report (pg. 67).  So there's a way to go to increase the critical maintenance capital budget.  But I wonder if this part is new to this budget cycle, or traditional:  "Finally, the Budget includes $210 million to support personal service and other costs associated with staff whose duties are related to the maintenance, preservation, and operation of SUNY facilities" (pg. 88).  If the former, it's also a big deal!
  • Community College Capital Program: ~$53.0-$196.0M ($138M/+$32M)
This matches local funding on a 50-50 basis and is subject to change until all "Documentation of the local funding commitment [that] must be provided to the Division of the Budget by mid-December each year" has been submitted (Report, pg. 67).  The Executive Budget projects this to be closer to the upper range in SUNY's estimate; expect the figure to change a bit by the time the Enacted Budget is agreed upon, but for technical rather than political reasons.
  • Clean Energy Implementation Fund: $100.0M
To aid in SUNY’s contributions to New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLPCA) goals, SUNY is proposing the creation of a “SUNY Clean Energy Implementation Fund” (Report, pg. 67). It's hard to tell from the capital funding proposal if the $200M shared between SUNY and CUNY on "strategic initiatives" (pg. 31) refers to this.  If so, wonderful!  If not, environmental organizations and activists will be pushing for the Enacted Budget to be much more aggressive on issues they care about, so there are opportunities to work with allies to better support this initiative.
  • Maintain 2023-24 Investment Levels: ~+$7.5M 
SUNY will have to go to the Legislature to have the following increases added to the Enacted Budget: "The current State Financial Plan posits several reductions to existing programs that support distinct areas of the SUNY System, including the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), investments in nursing programs, and the Maritime Scholarship Program. SUNY requests that these programs be maintained at 2023-24 levels, ensuring that there will not be any interruption in their offerings and support to the constituent base" (Report, pg. 66-67).  But these kinds of things are typically easy additions.

There's another category of budget requests from SUNY:  investments in student success and upward mobility.
  • Empire State Community College Workforce Guarantee
The SUNY report explained this as follows:  "The New York Community College Association of Presidents has developed a proposal to expand workforce development to prepare up to 20,000 career-ready students annually. The Empire State Community College Workforce Guarantee would prepare New Yorkers with the skills and credentials necessary to make them well-prepared for careers in high-demand sectors including health care, advanced manufacturing, IT/cybersecurity, skilled trades, and green jobs" (pg. 67).  It'll be interesting to see if this gets into the Enacted Budget.
  • Healthcare Workforce Innovation Fund: $47.0M Operating and $75.0M One-Time Capital
The emphasis in the SUNY report on helping Governor Hochul meet her "ambitious goal of increasing the health care workforce by 20% to support a stable, strong, and equitable health care system" (pg. 67) from her 2022 State of the State Address not being in her 2024 Executive Budget seems like a missed opportunity for the Governor and for SUNY.  I would love to hear why Governor Hochul did not support the following request from SUNY, which is based on recommendations from the SUNY Future of Healthcare Workforce Task Force and aims "to leverage SUNY’s role in ensuring the availability of a highly trained, diverse, and sustainable health care workforce" (pp. 67-68):  "To strengthen SUNY’s role in addressing the statewide shortage, four short-term, immediate-priority areas have been identified: invest in simulation to train more nurses; create a SUNY health care educator pipeline; increase diversity and student support; and support critical partnerships and pathway generation. In addition, supplemental one-time capital funds would help support the infrastructure changes needed to leverage simulation in SUNY’s nursing schools. Simulation projects will be prioritized based on readiness, increase in nursing enrollment, quality of programs, and collaboration. This combined operating and capital investment will make it possible to enroll over 3,000 more students in SUNY nursing programs and produce over 1,000 more nurses per year; support over 1,000 more adult learners newly entering allied health professions; and support over 100 more Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students pursuing health care" (pg. 68).
  • Pre-Professional Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Expansion: $5.0M
I'm confident the state legislature will support this SUNY request:  "Building upon recent successes through the development of the Pre-Med EOP Program, SUNY requests that the State further invest in this path via the creation of five new program cohorts. These expansion areas could include disciplines such as mental health, law, engineering, nursing, and education, providing students with opportunities for career acceleration and hands-on experiential learning" (pg. 68).
  • Empire State Service Corps: $7.5M ($2.75M)
The Financial Plan mentions $8M to support "various SUNY operating costs related to various State of the State initiatives, including, but not limited to, funding for the Empire State Service Corps" (pg. 26), but since this figure also includes Empire AI ($2.5M according to the budget book) and other programs, it seems that the amount proposed is significantly less than what SUNY requested.  (If I had just looked first at the SUNY overview, I wouldn't have had to operate by inference!)  Again, raising the funding level for the ESSC through partnership with the state legislature might not be too heavy a lift.
  • Family-Friendly Campuses: $3.0M
This seems like another student retention and success initiative from SUNY that deserves recurring support, or at least the kind of pilot laid out in the SUNY report: "Building on proven investments such as the Family Empowerment Act, SUNY seeks to receive isolated funding to support nontraditional students, particularly those students returning to school after stopping out due to family commitments. These funds would be provided through a request for proposal (RFP) process managed by System Administration, and a select group of campuses would be chosen to implement their plans, which would include comprehensive family-friendly initiatives such as guaranteed child care slots, hybrid class policies, language access, and wraparound supports over a multi-year period" (pg. 68).
  • Sustainable funding for ASAP/ACE
SUNY listed this as part of its "long-term plan for enrollment and financial sustainability" (Report, pg. 69), and it already has committed to spending the SFY24 one-time disbursement over three years, but I would want to see this request supported with recurring funds as soon as possible:  "The 2023-24 enacted budget included $75 million for the SUNY Transformation Fund as a one-year allocation. Currently, 25 SUNY campuses have elected to use their Transformation Funds to support the ASAP and ACE college completion initiatives described in the Student Success section. There is a robust body of research that supports ASAP/ACE as an evidence-based strategy validated by randomized controlled trials to increase retention and completion for students. An external evaluation led by MDRC found that involvement in the ASAP program nearly doubled graduation rates, both at CUNY and when it was replicated in Ohio. For CUNY, 22% of students not in the program earned a degree within three years, compared to 40% of the students participating in ASAP.25 Similarly, in Ohio, 19% of non-ASAP students earned a degree compared to 35% of ASAP students.26 Results from CUNY’s ongoing quasi-experimental evaluation of ASAP find participating students graduate at more than double the rate of non-ASAP students: 53% vs. 25%.27 SUNY has made it clear that one of the best enrollment strategies that SUNY will engage in for long-term success is increasing retention. ASAP/ACE has been demonstrated to have a strong effect on retention, and that is why to support SUNY’s long-term success, the ASAP/ACE program should be funded at a sustainable level to support student success" (Report, pp. 69-70).

Then there's another category that's aimed at enhancing SUNY's research productivity, quality, and impact (particularly at SUNY's Big 4), through both state and federal investments.  I would say these are TBD, as the federal/state balance of funding for research needs to be worked out at a level beyond the state budget before final decisions are made for the Enacted Budget.

  • Doubling SUNY Research Through Capital Investment: $745.0M – Year One
The SUNY report makes the following request: "Through investments in research-intensive SUNY institutions, the State could aid in meeting the Governor’s challenge for SUNY to double our research activity. This funding would support an earth and climate studies research building at Stony Brook; smart technologies building at Binghamton University; health, science, and innovation building at the University at Albany; and the AI Center for the Public Good at the University at Buffalo" (pp. 68-69)
  • Major increases in federal research funding:
The SUNY report notes that "In 2022-23, SUNY campuses generated $349.7M from the Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Health), $106.5M in research expenditures from the National Science Foundation, $70.6M from the Department of Defense, and $133.1M from other federal agencies. Building on the extraordinary investment represented by the CHIPS and Science Act, SUNY hopes for continued federal investment in cutting-edge academic research" (pg. 70).

The final category is what I would call a comprehensive college affordability agenda, and it again includes (or ought to include) both state and federal contributions.  It seems that the vast majority of discussion in the Executive Budget documents focuses on indirect state aid in terms of fringe benefits and debt service, rather than indirect state financial aid (such as the Tuition Assistance Program [TAP] or Excelsior Scholarship); the rest of SUNY's major proposals are either unmentioned, or, as with TAP, presumed to decrease due to decreases in enrollments (Financial Plan, pg. 24; although see pg. 26 [a vague reference to "TAP tuition credits"] and pg. 51 [which refers to the continuation of previously approved TAP eligibility expansions]).

  • Expansion of Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Income Thresholds and Award Levels
From the SUNY report: "SUNY is an extraordinary value proposition, and thanks to Governor Hochul’s leadership, 53% of full-time resident undergraduate students attend SUNY tuition-free. In addition, fewer SUNY students take on debt—and for those who do borrow, their debt is lower than their peers. Nevertheless, affordability remains a challenge for many students. The income thresholds for TAP have not been updated since the year 2000, which has significantly limited access to affordable degrees for New York State students" (pg. 69).
  • Continued TAP modernization
From the SUNY report: "As noted above, expanding college affordability in New York State is important for students, families, and SUNY. The current maximum income threshold for a dependent student to receive TAP is $80,000—while the state median income for a family of four is $116,765. If TAP had kept pace with inflation since it was last updated in 2000, the current threshold would be $145,000 instead of $80,000. In addition, the situation for independent students—essentially including working adults—is even more dire: the $10,000 threshold for single independent students without dependents has never been updated since it was created in 1986, and independent students who are married with no dependents have an income threshold of $40,000. A person who makes the New York minimum wage of $15 per hour would likely have too high an income to qualify for TAP as an independent student, including the new part-time TAP for workforce credential expansion. SUNY supports the strategic, and much-needed, adjustments to these thresholds as well as increases in award levels as a pivotal tool to aid New York State students succeed in their higher education journey" (pg. 70).
  • Establishing short-term Pell:
From the SUNY report: "The New York State Department of Labor, which releases long-term occupational projections, identified 259 occupations for the 2030 long-term outlook that have 'very favorable or favorable' outlooks where the median salary is more than $57,000. Of these, 74% require some education beyond a high school diploma. However, not all of these require bachelor’s degrees or higher. SUNY currently offers non-degree workforce programs and 500+ microcredentials at 32 campuses in 60+ disciplinary areas that will serve an estimated 7,000 students in Fall 2023. However, the federal Pell grant requires that eligible programs be at least 600 hours—excluding short-term career readiness and workforce development programs. SUNY is encouraged by recent bipartisan Congressional support for short-term Pell and hopes the federal government enacts legislation authorizing Pell grants to be used for short-term workforce development programs, without penalizing Pell-eligible students who attend highly competitive colleges and universities as is the case in the current legislation" (pg. 71).

  • Doubling Pell grants:
From the SUNY report: "Pell grants help nearly 7 million low- and moderate-income students attend and complete college annually. Systemwide, about one-third of SUNY students receive a Pell grant to attend college. Increasing the maximum Pell award to $13,000 would help more students afford college, earn a degree, get a good-paying job, and achieve a brighter future" (pg. 71).

This seems to be a place where the Governor, Legislature, SUNY System Administration, NYSUT, UUP, SUNY UFS, SUNY SA, NYPIRG, and other allies could focus their efforts on influencing the federal/state balance of enhancing college affordability.  Heading into an election year, this could be a winning issue for Democrats at all levels of government.  I know the media loves to focus on internecine battles between "centrist" and "leftist" Democrats, or between "conservative" and "progressive" factions within the party, but making college more affordable without harming educational quality or student success could be an issue that unites the party.  Maybe #TurnOnTheTap gets augmented by a "You can't spell student access, affordability, and success without Pell" or better tagline?

Monday, January 15, 2024

On Increasing SUNY Revenues, Part 5

Unless the Bills Blizzard delays the release of Governor Hochul's State Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget proposal, we'll know tomorrow where she stands on the issues I've been laying out in the first four parts of this series.  I want to shift gears here, today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, before the Bills game, to put together a reading list foregrounding others who I would want state decision-makers to become familiar with before the start of April when the Enacted Budget is due (building on an x-twitter thread I started before hopping onto the WNY Working Families Party zoom call).

I'm going to start with a new book by Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson, Campus Economics, which I'm about halfway through as of this writing.  Given the emphasis in the SUNY Report on Long-Term Enrollments and Financial Sustainability on thinning low-enrolled majors at SUNY campuses facing structural deficits (see my January 2024 Message to Senators for the Reader's Digest version, and my earlier posts in this series for my personal, individual reactions and analyses, which certainly inform my official communication as Senate Chairperson but go well beyond it), I want to highlight this moment from Baum's and McPherson's interview in Inside Higher Ed:

Q: You write, “It may be entirely reasonable that a college maintain its archaeology department even if it has few majors.” Many colleges have made the number of majors key to decisions about eliminating departments. When is that a reasonable decision? 


A: We use this example to illustrate the complexity of decisions for academic institutions. Even if no students major in a certain field, courses in that subject may be very important to many students and to the broad skills and perspectives nurtured by a liberal arts education. (Mathematics departments often have a great many enrollments but very few majors.) Some departments may cost money and require a transfer of resources from other endeavors. Certainly, the archaeology department in our example must be serving someone other than the faculty members themselves, but the number of majors does not provide a simple valid metric. For example, in some cases, a department may be producing research of value far beyond the walls of the university.


Finding out that the revenues of the college would increase if all required courses were eliminated would not by itself imply that there should be radical curriculum reform. But it would mean that the cost of the requirements should be acknowledged and the source of funds to cover those costs should be identified.


It is quite reasonable for some parts of the college to subsidize others. Even if it were possible to precisely measure costs and revenues of each component of the institution, eliminating those that do not bring in the revenue necessary to pay for themselves would not be consistent with the educational mission. With this example, it is easy to see that good solutions will require faculty members to understand the financial realities and business officers to value the education central to the institution’s mission so they can communicate well and reach balanced decisions.

Picking up on this theme, I'll next turn to West Virginia University and point you toward pieces by Rose Casey, Jessie Wilkerson, and Johanna WinantLisa CorriganDennis Hogan; and Jeffrey Melnick.  But the one I'm going to highlight is by Aaron Hanlon, specifically his point that

[B]y suggesting that certain subjects have outlived their professional utility, these schools are presuming to know which specialties of knowledge will be in high demand for decades to come. History shows that’s a fool’s game.

 After surveying examples from West Virginia University and several others, Hanlon summarizes:

When you put it all together, the claim that slashing academic programs is necessary for sound fiscal management looks dubious at best. What’s actually happening is that ideologically motivated higher education leadership have been using the pretext of financial exigency to reengineer higher education. But the ideology isn’t necessarily liberal or conservative; it’s the short-term thinking of business management.

 His takeaway?

Making bets on this crude form of analysis is risky and shortsighted because predicting student interests and enrollment patterns, as well as economic needs that may impact enrollment, is notoriously fraught. Examples abound of subjects across the liberal arts and sciences that were foolishly written off....


We don’t know—not even university presidents; not even management consultants—when circumstances will elevate a neglected or undervalued area of study to dire importance. Since at least the 2008 financial crisis, higher education leaders, policymakers, and the media have increasingly accepted as a given that higher education should not be comprehensive but rather driven by return on investment, based on short-term, fluctuating, homespun ideas about market value. This is a high-stakes gamble on an unknowable future.

In my x-twitter thread, I pointed to general sources like Metrics That Matter (for the college search process), Christopher NewfieldThe Great Mistake (for higher ed funding and purposes), Kelly Grotke (on endowments), and Steven Bahls (on shared governance).  I pointed people to case studies like Clifford Ando on the University of Chicago and Christopher Gunderson on CUNY (h/t Leigh Claire La Berge for the link and recommendation).  I'll add here that both Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier's Austerity Blues:  Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education and William Bowen and Eugene Tobin's Locus of Authority:  The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education focus on CUNY, as well.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Mr. Constructivist Goes to Albany...

...really just as a chauffeur/butler for the Full Metal Archivist, my amazing wife, who's doing an all-day professional development thing in NYS's capitol city this Friday, but I will be in Albany and fairly free from Thursday night to Friday afternoon if anyone wants any unsolicited advice from yours truly, or has any suggestions about what I should be blogging and Xing/tweeting about in the coming days, weeks, and months.  Just putting that out into the intertubes' aether.

State of the State Post-Game

I've got to admit that I found the State of the State Address almost totally demoralizing for almost the entire afternoon and evening yesterday—so much so that I needed time to even start reading the SOTS Book (that's a today project).  It's not that anything that Governor Hochul announced regarding higher ed was so bad; on the contrary, the AI consortium initiative is potentially huge, the top 10% automatic admission is wonderful, etc., etc.  Building new housing units on underutilized SUNY properties?  Why the heck not?  What I was left with, though, was the despairing question, "Is that all?"

What also demoralized me was hearing the Governor talk about long-standing issues and problems that were clearly huge priorities to her using language I've been hoping she would use for SUNY and CUNY—language such as
  • "get us out of the deep hole created by decades of inaction"
  • "it's a band-aid when we need reconstructive surgery"
  • "it takes political will, it takes deliver what New Yorkers desperately want"
—and not use similar language, or really any language at all, on her core responsibility:  to set the terms of debate over pricing and funding SUNY and CUNY.  College affordability was not incorporated into her consumer protection and affordability agenda in the big way I had called for last Wednesday.  And there was really very little on SUNY or CUNY anywhere else in the State of the State.

As statement after statement rolled in yesterday afternoon and evening, my malaise deepened.  Was anybody prioritizing a public goods approach to funding and pricing public higher education in New York State?

Right before I called it a night, after I got ready for bed, though, it hit me.  There was another interpretation for the Governor's silence on these questions:  they were still in play.  Governor Hochul is likely still in discussions with SUNY, CUNY, union leaders, DOB, and others on what will actually go into the State Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget.

I didn't have the energy last night to gather evidence for this alternative interpretation of the Governor's silences in the State of the State:  sleep was a higher priority.  But now that I'm awake and rested, I'm seeing evidence everywhere:
  • NYSUT's statement (which was released before the State of the State) is very strong, suggesting that the New Deal for Higher Education campaign from 2023 continues into 2024 and that New York's education and higher education unions are in the arena.
  • UUP and PSC-CUNY still have not released statements specifically addressing the State of the State.  When do unions decide not to make public statements or go to the media?  While they're still in negotiations.
  • SUNY and CUNY's statements accentuated the positives so intently and were so relentlessly optimistic, while remaining silent on what the Governor was silent on, also suggest that discussions are ongoing.  I'm going to read Chancellor King's apparently constative closing—"Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York is making a commitment to public higher education like no other state, and for that we are grateful"—as potentially performative (in the speech act theory sense), or if not actually doing something as concrete as naming a ship or marrying two people, at least trying to call hope into reality (think about "is making" and "like no other state" for a while and you'll see what I'm getting at).
So that's my story and I'm sticking to it until I find countervailing evidence.

Today's agenda includes reading the SOTS Book, talking to people from New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Patricia Fahy's office, and trying to get New York State's progressive politicians and non-government organizations to pay attention to our petition.

Update (9:04 am)

I've already written about the "you can lead a horse to water..." problem facing every awesome SUNY and CUNY initiative aimed at increasing applications, including the new top 10% initiative:  if you don't provide the quality, if you don't price and fund SUNY and CUNY like the public goods they are, then students with better options will go elsewhere.  Public higher ed is in the midst of a net cost of attendance battle—a yield war—and so far the Governor doesn't seem to want to publicly acknowledge it, even when it would advance her overall affordability agenda by forcing "independent"/private higher ed to compete harder on college affordability.

Here's another example of how the Governor's proposals could potentially work at cross-purposes.  Her voter registration initiative acknowledges what's been known for a long time:  college towns tend to vote blue, even in red states and counties.  But what is the likely result of forcing places like SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Fredonia to further downsize their faculty and staff?  Just ask Emporia State.  As Governor Hochul considers how to balance the mix of public and private revenues for SUNY for the coming fiscal year and over the next decade, I hope she also considers the partisan political implications of investing in cities and disinvesting in rural counties.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

State of the State Pre-Game

I had a really good talk this morning with Jan Dorman, Director of the Standing Committee on Higher Education in the New York State Senate, arranged by the office of committee chair and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, on the joint Senate-Assembly Higher Ed committees' #TurnOnTheTAP campaign and legislative package that was launched yesterday.  Soon after, I wrote the following thank-you email to Senator Stavisky's scheduler Marilyn Dyer:

Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with Jan. I'd love to hear more about the specifics of Senator Stavisky's and Assemblymember Fahy's higher ed agenda and continue discussing ways the Fredonia University Senate and SUNY University Faculty Senate (UFS) could help advance it.

Here's some background on what both organizations have been up to since the fall!
I'm excited that so many organizations seem to be committing to identifying common areas of state budget advocacy and putting down markers before Governor Hochul's State of the State Address this afternoon and release of her Executive Budget proposal later this month.

If there's anything Senator Stavisky needs from either Senate, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm happy to take suggestions to the Fredonia University Senate Executive Committee (as Senate Chairperson) and the UFS Executive Committee (as chair of the UFS Governance Committee and Immediate Past Vice President/Secretary). I can't guarantee either governance committee or body will be with you 100% on every matter, but we're happy to engage in dialogue to get as close as we can to 100% on as close as we can get to 100% of the topics we discuss!

Have a wonderful day,

It sounds to me that Senator Stavisky and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (chair of the New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee) are on very much the same page as United University Professions.  I emphasized during the call that although I am a UUP member and active on the Fredonia Chapter Executive Board, I was speaking for myself and transmitting SUNY shared governance body information and talking points.  Will continue to make that clear in communications beyond the call and the email.

Looking forward to continued conversations after the State of the State Address, starting with a call with Assemblymember Fahy's office tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, January 08, 2024

On Increasing SUNY Revenues, Part 4

It's the day before Governor Kathy Hochul's 2024 State of the State Address and I have not yet given up hope that she will make the right call and put forward a proposal for pricing and funding SUNY and CUNY like the public goods they are that responds substantively both to the point made by United University Professions that her predecessors underfunded SUNY to the tune of about $500M per year over the last 16 years and the point made by SUNY System Administration that we can expect that gap to rise another $100M per year over the next 10 years without action from New York State.  But some impromptu comments from Governor Hochul last Friday have raised my level of alarm that she either doesn't understand the situation facing SUNY or is willing to lie about it.  I'll let you go to my x-twitter account @CitizenSE to see the full range of my immediate responses to Governor Hochul's claim that increasing SUNY revenues beyond what she's already done is "impossible." And of course you can read the first three parts of my response to the SUNY report for the rationales underlying those responses.  But here's the bottom line.

The $10M-$17M structural deficit facing my own home campus SUNY Fredonia is no joke.  Even at its "smaller" end, if we are looking only at budget cuts to address it, we are talking job losses on the order of 100-200 positions, depending on the average salary of those who lose their jobs.  Is Governor Hochul really saying that's what she wants for the Village of Fredonia and Northern Chautauqua County?  Because if so, she can expect all of Western New York to go to war with her.

"No, no, no, perish the thought.  All I'm calling for is to raise revenues by raising tuition.  Calm down."  In this economy?  When 91% of Fredonia's Class of 2019 graduated with student debt?  When Fredonia's seen a decrease in enrollments on the order of 40% since Fall 2007?  What clearer signal can the students accepted at Fredonia but choosing not to attend be sending that any further tuition increases are unacceptable?

"No, no, no, you misunderstand.  Any tuition increases at Fredonia will be more than offset by increases in indirect state financial aid."  Well, now we're getting somewhere.  What matters to students and families is the net cost of attendance per year.  The sticker price at Fredonia, when all costs associated with attendance are factored in, is the equivalent of four very small new cars over four years (about $25K, give or take).  Governor Hochul should be asking herself (and, if she doesn't know how to answer the questions, then asking SUNY System Administration) what's the average net cost of attendance at Fredonia?  The mean?  The median?  The average amount of debt a Fredonia student graduates with for the Classes of 2020-2023?  The mean?  The median?  And how much of that net cost has been reduced by Fredonia taking direct state aid operating funds and using them to discount tuition each year on top of scholarships offered by the Fredonia College Foundation?  Then start asking the same questions about every campus "in the red" on enrollments over the last decade from page 29 of the SUNY report.  If she does that, Governor Hochul will get a very clear picture of the price wars SUNY campuses have been waging.

I'll have much more to say about this later today, but I wanted to get this much out this morning!

Update 1 (2:32 pm)

Please see today's interview with New York State Assembly Higher Education Chair Patricia Fahy.

Update 2 (3:27 pm)

Yesterday, the Albany Times-Union editorial board laid out a position very close to what I've been advocating for on this blog, via twitter, and through my work as Fredonia University Senate Chairperson and Immediate Past Vice President/Secretary of the SUNY University Faculty Senate.  I encourage everyone to read it!

Update 3 (6:00 pm)

Check out the #TurnOnTheTAP hashtag on x-twitter for a new initiative sponsored by the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Higher Education Committees, Toby Stavisky and Patricia Fahy.  Also check out the #NoCutsToCUNY #InvestinCUNY #CareNotCuts #FullyFundCUNY #NewDeal4CUNY and #APeoplesCUNY hashtags for ongoing efforts by Professional Staff Congress-CUNY leaders and members (such as by Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and History at John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY Gerald Markovitz) to stave off cuts to the City University of New York.  All these efforts and more are aimed at raising the stakes on the eve of Governor Hochul's State of the State Address.

The key thing to keep in mind is that increasing indirect state financial aid by itself won't necessarily help SUNY or CUNY, as students could simply choose private alternatives that are already investing heavily in tuition discounting.  That's why Assemblymember Fahy has been so careful to connect increasing direct state aid to modernizing the Tuition Assistance Program.  That's why the Fredonia University Senate and SUNY University Faculty Senate have been emphasizing the importance of funding and pricing SUNY and CUNY like the public goods they are.

Update 4 (10:54 pm)

Commentary by Blair Horner of NYPIRG also supports shifting the balance of public/private revenues for SUNY back in the direction of greater public investments.