Stanley discusses Oswego’s future

Budget highlights dominated President Deborah Stanley’s biannual speech to the general faculty meeting.

Stanley covered a wide range of budget provisions set to affect Oswego State in the coming fiscal year, including a tuition increase, performance-based funding and sharing services with other SUNY schools. Before concluding, Stanley also answered questions posed from the audience. The event drew nearly 70 faculty members to Lanigan Monday afternoon.

“We are in shared services mode,” Stanley said, discussing the controversial subject of SUNY institutions combining resources such as faculty and equipment to achieve economies. Last fall, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced a plan for SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton to share a single president; the plan drew outrage from advocates and the legislature who criticized the move, believing it would sacrifice affected campuses’ individuality.

“It’s not combining campuses,” Stanley said. “That highly political flashpoint has gone away.”

She identified SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry as an institution Oswego State might share physical capital with, though she noted that, “they have more savings than [us].” However, she did not provide specifics on the matter.

Tuition increases were also on the agenda, with Stanley praising the legislature for adopting a measure proponent’s call “rational tuition policy,” whereby the state commits to steady tuition increases over the course of several years; this instead of larger, unpredictable hikes in times of fiscal turmoil.

A $300 increase will take effect next year, and every year until 2016, under the current law. The university predicts at least a $2.1 million revenue increase from the upcoming tuition spike. However, Stanley said the effects on TAP are still uncertain. She said she and other SUNY presidents are, “looking for revisions in the wording” of the TAP law.

Currently, students who qualify for the program may receive money toward their bill even if their grant is as low $10 or $25. Stanley would like to see a threshold-value placed on the fund to end these low-dollar grants in order to redistribute to students for whom the tuition increase puts their continued education in jeopardy.

Another hot topic was performance-based funding, a pet project of the governor and chancellor. The program would tie part of the SUNY universities’ state funding to performance on a grab bag of key indicators, which the institution may or may not be able to select itself. The chancellor has proposed binding 5 percent of the university’s allocation to performance. That is “a huge amount of money,” said Stanley, who serves with presidents of Alfred State and Stony Brook on a committee shaping the proposal.

“My opinion is start small, get a lot of success and then move on down the road,” Stanley said of the initiative that currently remains more idea than proposal—lacking any defined form or specific provisions.

Stanley said she would like Zimpher to tie only new money to performance, potentially giving the universities a bargaining chip with which to negotiate budget increases.

However, the current plan has 5 percent coming from the already-designated allocations.

“My real feelings about it are that if you change the tune we’ll still dance,” Stanley said. “We’ll make do, we still have plans and goals.”

Stanley also spoke about wanting to increase the number of part-time students enrolling at Oswego State.

“The money is better on that basis,” Stanley said. She noted the problems associated with too many students between ages 18 and 22, as well as the current “glut” of full-time students at Oswego State. This year Oswego was down 111 part-time students and 329 credit hours enrolled over last year. Full-time enrollment remained the same.

Stanley, who has served since 1997, raised concerns about the maintenance of Oswego State’s campus. 2012 is the last year of the state’s current five-year capital investment plan. The last 15 years have seen three consecutive five-year plans, directing over $500 million into the campus and paying for projects like the campus center and the science complex.

No new five-year plan has been proposed. Stanley said she hoped that some money would be designated for the campus’ upkeep, even if fresh building projects are not generated.

The state also broke from tradition this year by failing to approve new bonds to raise money for residence hall construction. The state calculates the bonds as debt—and as such—seeks to cap their sale, though Stanley and others contend that the bonds do not fit the criterion for state debt. The move, outs a halt to any hopes of new residence halls for Oswego State.

Stanley addressed increasing the enrollment of international students, the sesquicentennial video series and student retention near the end of the talk, before taking questions from the faculty.