SA Column: SUNY Student Assembly & Budget Surplus

Kathleen Mulhern, Director of External Affairs

This Halloween weekend the SUNY Student Assembly convened for its annual Fall Conference in Latham, NY. SA members discussed the multitude of issues that face the State University system and how we as students have a chance to make a difference in our education. Amongst these issues was that of shared presidencies. It was recently announced that SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton would be sharing a president. In addition, SUNY Morrisville and SUNY IT will be sharing a president, as will SUNY Cobleskill and SUNY Delhi.
The Student Assembly is concerned that the sharing of presidents between colleges will not only diminish the individual identities of these colleges, but will also decrease the quality of the education being received at these institutions. Due to this, the Assembly endorsed a resolution written by several members of its Executive Committee denouncing all currently existing shared presidencies and demanding to the SUNY Board of Trustees that if shared presidencies is a truly needed course of action in the future that it, at the very least, consult the administration, faculty leadership and student leadership at the respective schools and that it conducts its due diligence in researching the true positives and negatives of that action first.
Another issue discussed at the conference was budget cuts. SUNY, and more specifically the State of New York, faced many budget issues this year. New York State faced a deficit of $10 billion coming into the year, meaning that cuts had to be made to each area of the state that is supported by taxpayers, including SUNY. SUNY Oneonta was cut $2.4 million this year. To make up for this deficit, the Rational Tuition Plan was put in place through a state bill called NY-SUNY 2020.
The SUNY SA and students at Oneonta fought for this Rational Tuition Plan to be enacted just last year. Unfortunately, money has to be generated because the state simply does not have the funds. However, by having tuition increase by a known, small amount each year, students can prepare for the amount. In the past, tuition has increased by the amount the Board of Trustees sees fit and without warning, which led to students being left with heavy financial burdens. Now students and their families can prepare for the small amount that inevitably will occur given the financial deficit.
The SUNY SA website (studentassembly.org) clearly explains the plan. Director of Communications of the SUNY Student Assembly Ari Saati explains, “Rational tuition was a critical victory for SUNY students and serves as a framework for student governments across the nation on how they can work with their administration and government officials to institute an ongoing tuition policy that works for students and their families. But the key here is that it can’t work without counties, states and Washington holding up their end of the bargain.” Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees Carl McCall, who visited this past weekend’s conference, explained that this time, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature are forced by this policy and law to keep up his end of the bargain.
In the past, Chairman McCall explained, tuition would be raised to fill any budget gaps the state had at the time. Governor Cuomo has promised that all money collected by raising tuition will stay within SUNY. This is where the students must have a voice.
This year, SUNY Oneonta faced a $1 million cut. Through tuition increases, student fee increases, early retirements, administrative restructuring and room rate increases, SUNY Oneonta saved $3.4 million, which has resulted in a $2.4 million surplus. As promised by Governor Andrew Cuomo, that money will not be given back to the state but will remain in the University’s hands. You, as a student, contributed to that surplus. Now make sure that you have a voice in what happens to it.
Not only must our voices be heard due to our contribution to this surplus, but also our campus’ administration wants your input. SUNY Oneonta’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Todd Foreman sincerely wants the opinion of the students to be heard and met. He and the Student Association ask that you attend the SUNY Oneonta SA Senate meeting on Tuesday, November 29 and voice your opinion on the issue. He has an honest concern for the students and wants to be aware of their feelings on the matter of where a $2.4 million surplus should be applied.
A poll will also be appearing on MyOneonta for you to cast your vote on what you think the extra money should support. Some of the choices will include diversity initiatives, facilities (buildings, sidewalks, etc.), parking, scholarships, sustainability initiatives, technology enhancements and tutoring.
Vice President Foreman also welcomes students to email him with suggestions at [email protected] In the big picture, $2.4 million dollars isn’t that much money to go to all the aspects of college life that need improvement but it is money that we, the students, paid following the provisions set in NY-SUNY 2020. Now it is in our school’s hands and we must be active in how that money will improve SUNY Oneonta.
To find more information about budget cuts or any data relevant to this article, please the SUNY Student Assembly website (studentassembly.org) or the SUNY Oneonta Budget Advisory Committee website (oneonta.edu/bac). The Student Association hopes that there will be many in attendance at the Senate meeting on Novemeber 29 and that many students will participate in the MyOneonta poll and will contact Foreman so that the voice of the students is heard.

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