BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) – Emerging budget shortfalls at two SUNY campuses in Western New York are prompting a call to action.
Fred Kowal, president of United University Professionals (UUP), said: “This is simply unacceptable and, frankly, deeply distressing.”
Urgent message from United University Professional Higher Education Union
In a speech at SUNY Buffalo State Tuesday, the president sounded the alarm and said the future of SUNY and affordable education is at risk.
He and other stakeholders are imploring state lawmakers to invest about $350 million in funding for deficiencies at Buffalo State and SUNY Fredonia.
“They’re able to recruit and retain them, keep the students from graduating on time and then not having the student debt that they’re going through — that’s where we’re looking,” Kowal said.
The union says 19 SUNY campuses are facing potential shortages.
- Buffalo State
- Empire state
- New Paltz
- Old Westbury
Here in Western New York, the UUP says the projected deficit in Fredonia is $16.8 million and Buffalo State is running a $16 million deficit.
I asked the union what was causing these defects. Declining enrollment is one reason, he says.
“And the campuses — especially the ones like Buffalo State and Fredonia — the general campuses — are trying to make up for the difference in revenue because tuition has been suspended for two years,” Kowal responded.
Kowal said that the issue of fees on campuses is becoming difficult for students.
But SUNY also continues to offer tuition for eligible students.
“A tuition-free homecoming for these college campuses?” Buckley asked. “No, I think the reality is that if you’re going to run a public higher education system, you have to ask whether or not tuition should even be charged. At his point, we see slowing down education as a good start, but keeping the fees under control and the way you do that is by investing in the campus,” Kowal explained.
Buffalo State’s higher education enrollment has fallen nationally in recent years, but Governor Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers are making the “biggest investment in higher education in a generation.”
“Despite years of declining higher education enrollment across the nation, Governor Cathy Hochul and our state legislators have made the largest investment in higher education in a generation to establish SUNY as a global leader in providing affordable and accessible college education. Buffalo is providing affordable, transformative, and high-quality education for New Yorkers. The state looks forward to continuing our dialogue with the state as we do so.
President Catherine Conway-Turner.
Buffalo State students tell me they are hearing about the financial crisis on campus.
“It’s kind of like a complaint here from professors and other staff on campus — we’re running out of money,” Mike Brooks explained.
Brooks, a sophomore, said some professors are leaving and classes are cut each semester.
“I think it’s really a lack of resources. I notice a lot of employees are leaving,” Brooks said. “I feel it when I feel anxious.”
Jack Berg, a sophomore at Buffalo State, said he’s also hearing from professors who say they don’t make enough money compared to their peers in higher education.
Berg also mentions that “almost every day it is below what it should be.”
The union president said it’s getting harder to attract professors and staff and keep them with deficits looming.
“Are you worried about faculty layoffs or something like that because of these deficits?” Buckley asked. “I think that may be looking down the road, and I think it’s important that the money comes in so that we can attract and retain high-quality faculty and staff,” Kowal replied.
At a news conference, Buffalo State student Carlisia Ford urged the state to give student aid to SUNY fairly.
“You can’t half-invest in something. You have to lean in and really put your feet in the water,” Ford said. “It’s frustrating to hear that some students struggle with money, so luckily I’m lucky enough to have my school fully covered, but others aren’t.”
SUNY Fredonia released a statement in response to the union’s news conference.
“SUNY Fredonia continues to prioritize the academic success and well-being of its students and is taking proactive steps to address budget issues. We also remain steadfast in our commitment to students, faculty and staff and Western New York.”
President Stephen H. Collison, Jr., Ph.D.
The UUP was joined at Tuesday’s news conference by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and some state lawmakers, including State Senator Tim Kennedy, Congresswoman Monica Wallace and Assemblyman John Rivera. They all asked for funding for SUNY.
“If we don’t fund higher education — not just abandoning the middle class — we’re abandoning our children and abandoning our cities to our states,” Rivera said.
7 News also reached out to SUNY for comment. SUNY released the following statement.
“The recently enacted state budget includes the largest investment in higher education in a generation. SUNY alone is receiving nearly $300 million in operating aid and $660 million in new capital. State of the art classrooms, as well as research and laboratory space and affordability for all students, are highly It will continue to fulfill its mission to provide a quality, academic experience, including workforce development, and—most importantly—an unprecedented level of financial support to support students, campuses, faculty, and researchers at all public colleges and universities.
SUNY also provided a few more examples of what the ‘approved budget’ includes additional funding for SUNY and what the budget includes:
- $60 million in new operating aid to help support systemwide priorities such as enrollment growth
- 53 million dollars to hire new faculty
- A 15% increase in funding for educational opportunity programs that help more than 78,000 New Yorkers achieve their academic and career goals.
- Expansion of the $150 million tuition assistance program to include part-time students
- Elimination of the TAP gap for SUNY state-run campuses
The SUNY Student Council also released the following statement to 7 News.
“President Alexandria Chunn and the SUNY Student Assembly Executive Board stand with the students of Buffalo State College and our 19 public campuses as we face the current budget challenges. The SUNY Student Assembly Executive Director of Policy and her team at the SUNY Student Assembly will address specific budget requests to the region that meet the needs of all SUNY students. Legislators are developing a bold advocacy agenda.
SUNY Student Council