SUNY’s disappearing dollars

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his 2011-12 Executive Budget Tuesday, outlining major spending cuts across almost all state agencies. The budget outlined a $131.4 million decrease in general fund support for the operation of the State University of New York System.

Cuomo introduce the cuts in an attempt to eliminate New York’s crippling state debt. State-funded debt alone is 55,116 in millions of dollars this fiscal year, according to the State Budget Department.

The budget must be passed by the state legislature which will vote on the proposal in March and finalize any changes. Student Association Executive Adviser on External Affairs Ryan Foley said one of the things S.A. anticipates legislators to challenge is the lack of increase in SUNY tuition.

The proposed budget continues the amount of tuition the state rendered in the previous budget, said Nicholas Lyons, vice president for Administration and Finance. That budget had 90 percent of the tuition paid at SUNY schools going to the state.

"We understand the seriousness of New York’s financial crisis and agree that everyone must do their part for the good of all New Yorkers, however, we remain deeply concerned about our mounting fiscal challenges and how they will impact our ability to provide a quality experience and education for our students," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher in a statement.

The chancellor is particularly concerned about the proposal’s plan to eliminate the state subsidy for SUNY’s three teaching hospitals.

The SUNY administration decides through a large budgeting process how much each school receives. David Belsky, State University of New York Press Officer and Director of New Media, said that the appropriations are mostly based on enrollment at the individual institutions.

Oswego State President Deborah Stanley said she believed the cut "will have no major effect on the number of classes or the number of academic program offerings at Oswego."

However, it is still early in the budgeting process, so it is uncertain how each department will be affected.

Charles Spector, chairman of the Accounting, Finance and Law department, explained what would happen after the budget is passed.

"The chancellor sends the numbers to the president, who sends them to the provost, who sends them to the dean, who sends them to me," he said.

It will not be until then that individual departments know exactly how much they will be affected by cuts.

Julie Blissert, director of Public Affairs to Oswego State, said the cuts will not have an effect on renovation projects.

"The budget includes no curtailment of capital spending, which means that construction and renovations under way at Oswego can continue."

Blissert noted the budget proposal does not make any cuts or restrictions to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

Oswego State administrators have already begun preparing for the possibility of absorbing cuts. Lyons said Oswego State anticipated a bad budget year and the decision to not have tuition increases will make finances more difficult for the college even with the current campus reserve fund.

SUNY Student Assembly President Julie Gondar expressed her discontent with the decision to not raise tuition.

"We feel keeping tuition at the current level is simply not sustainable, and does not support access and affordability in the long-term," Gondar said. We fear that this latest cut to SUNY will mean more campuses being forced to phase out programs much in the way New Paltz has done with nursing, Geneseo with communication disorders, and Albany with several languages."

Stanley will address managing the budget Monday in a Budget Advisory Group meeting which, Blissert said, was set up to get feedback on potential budget cuts from the entire campus community. S.A. President Steven DiMarzo will be at the meeting to represent student interests.