Mon October 6, 2008
SUNY Chair Says Don't Cut Public Colleges
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York – The Chair of the State University of New York Board of Trustees says Governor Paterson and legislative leaders should not cut public universities when they meet next month in a special session. Instead, says Carl Hayden, lawmakers should let the schools go forward with a deregulation plan that he says could save the state millions.
SUNY Board of Trustees Chair Carl Hayden says a recession is exactly the wrong time to stop investing in higher education. And he urged Governor David Paterson and legislative leaders not to make further reductions to public colleges and universities when they meet in a special session in November to slash $2 billion more dollars from the state budget.
"You cannot cut your way out of a recession," said Hayden. "You must grow your way out."
The former state board of Regents Chancellor says the SUNY system is already suffering from $210 million dollars in cuts made earlier this year. Speaking at a forum on global economics at the Rockefeller Institute, Hayden says SUNY plans to present Paterson and legislative leaders with a plan to deregulate the state university system that he says could save hundreds of millions of dollars.
"We are the most hamstrung, highly regulated, least nimble public higher education system in the country," he said.
Afterward, Hayden gave examples of some money saving ideas that SUNY could engage in, including selling or leasing unused property. He says currently, campuses can't act without approval from the state's Comptroller and Attorney General. Recently, the State University of New York at Purchase wanted to build senior housing on its campus. In exchange for the added income, the college would permit the seniors to audit classes. The plan required permission from the legislature, but the bill was ultimately vetoed by the governor.
Chairman Hayden also condemned SUNY's tuition pricing policy, calling it "chaotic and counterproductive". He says for years, there were no tuition increases at SUNY. Then in one semester, rates were raised by 29%, which was devastating to students enrolled at the time. He says he supports "rational" tuition increases each year, that are in line with inflation and other costs.
Hayden says the good news is that the state is realizing it must end the "feast or famine" cycle of relying on Wall Street revenues to balance the budget. 20% of the state's total taxes come from the financial industry. He sees opportunity in investing in the SUNY structure, which has 64 campuses in upstate New York and on Long Island, many in economically distressed areas.
Hayden says the SUNY Albany Nanotech center could be a blueprint for other campuses to attract cutting edge research. He says other countries, including Korea, Sweden and Ireland, are already well ahead of the United States in the number of college graduates in their workforces.