By Erin Jayne Mansfield

Stony Brook University students and faculty are assembling against Gov. David Paterson’s proposed $17 million cut to SBU’s budget that they fear will cause tuition to rise and quality of education to fall.

The past three rounds of budget cuts to the State University of New York (SUNY) took $20 million from Stony Brook, and a fourth one is in line for New York’s 2009-10 State Fiscal Year (SFY).

In the Spring 2009 semester, tuition increased $310 for in-state students and $1,130 for out-of-state students. The state is planning to spend 90% of the revenue from the tuition hikes to pay back the state’s debt, much of which accumulated due to Wall Street’s crumble, after the state lost income tax revenue when investors lost money in the stock market.

“The governor is cutting revenue that he does not give,” Eli Mondesir, the Asst. University Budget Director said, noting that the students are paying back the debt, not taxpayers. She added that lawmakers are using the SUNY system as a sort of state piggy bank. “They’re just taking whatever they can grab to plug in the gap.”

Gov. Paterson has also proposed stricter regulations on New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). According to his Preliminary Executive Budget Briefing for the 2009-10 SFY, students will be required to take a minimum of 15 credits to receive full TAP awards, which will cause many full-time students to add one class. He will also increase the minimum GPA for TAP eligibility from 1.1 to 1.8.

Students fear that the increased stipulations will force them to have too much schoolwork to hold down a job.

Priscilla Brown, a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y. said that increased tuition has caused her to work more hours at her job. “It seems like they’re extorting money from us,” she added, unhappy about how the tuition is being allocated.

In his cover letter, Gov. Paterson said that his Executive Budget “seeks shared sacrifice from all New Yorkers,” during what he calls “the greatest economic and fiscal challenge of our lifetimes.”

But SBU students are ready to fight to maintain their quality of education.

Adal Regis, a USG senator, coordinated a protest against the SUNY budget cuts. “We feel that it’s unfair, especially with the Bundy Aid,” he said.

Bundy Aid is money approved by the New York State Legislature that subsidizes private colleges and universities in the state of New York. According to the Governor’s Preliminary Executive Budget Briefing for the 2009-10 SFY, only 3.3% of this will be cut, and the public’s funding of these private institutions will continue.

The official protest took place at the Academic Mall on Feb. 25 during Campus Lifetime. It served as a forum for students who were unable to attend Albany Day, the annual event where SUNY students and faculty members storm the capital to have their voices heard.

According to Lauren Sheprow at the Office of Media Relations, the dire economic situation forced SBU to cut its spending on Albany Day. Unlike in 2008, when over 1,000 people attended, only 50 teams of two or three students and faculty members were sent to the capital this year. Sheprow said the cutback was “all about being responsible in a state of economic crisis.”

“We’re already paying a lot,” freshman Kaitlin McIntosh from Loveland, Colo. said. “I’m going to have to get a second job over the summer.”