What little praise Governor Cuomo received for keeping SUNY tuition as-is in his recent budget proposal was trumped by criticism of the proposed elimination of all direct state support, $55 million, to the Stony Brook University Medical Center. That loss, plus a slash of $12 million in direct state funding to the University, adds up to a potential loss of 30% in Stony Brook’s state allocation.
While it’s true that Cuomo is attempting to alleviate a $10 billion dollar deficit, Assemblyman Englebright called the cuts “a complete turning away from the promise and the premise of the university and the hospital.”
So what happens if the budget passes, and those cuts—or eliminations rather, become a reality?
The two prospective sources of revenue that are receiving the most attention are tuition increases and public/private partnerships. However, it is not likely that tuition will rise this year. Public/private partnerships take a significant amount of time to develop before they generate revenue, according to Assemblyman Steve Englebright. This could mean the elimination of hospital services, lay-offs, program cuts to both the university and the hospital and a reduction in the amount of accepted students.
While stable tuition is desirable for current students, Englebright said in a phone interview that it’s “for better or for worse.” If incremental tuition increases don’t occur during a longer period of time and state support continues to dwindle, future students could face a sudden skyrocket in tuition rates. Though either way, they would pay.
“…Without some form of revenue relief in the form of increased tuition, we cannot hope to maintain the same level of educational quality,” President Stanley wrote in his message to the campus community.
In a recent testimony, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher called for the creation of a five-year tuition increase plan, one that is supported by the SUNY Student Assembly.
“We feel keeping tuition at the current level is simply not sustainable, and does not support access and affordability in the long-term,” said SUNY Student Assembly President Julie Gondar in a statement on the Assembly’s website.
Gondar also wrote that SUNY students think it unwise that Cuomo didn’t include a tuition increase plan in his proposal. However, the assembly website claims that all representatives are elected by their student peers, which is not true in the case of Stony Brook. And if our representatives are not elected, they do not fairly represent the opinions of the student body.
“These people work very closely with administrators and lawmakers, enjoying access to a political elite that eventually yields lines on a resume and letters of recommendation for the students and the ability to claim the “voice of the students” for the administrators and lawmakers,” said Mike Carley, a founding member of the Radical Student Union, or RSU, a group on campus that works to secure student rights, in an email.
In an effort to take direct action against Governor Cuomo’s proposed cuts to higher education, the RSU has planned a rally to take place March 2 in the SAC plaza.
“The only way for students to have their voices heard is to pressure the government collectively,” Carley wrote. “Individual students acting alone are powerless.”