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Central New York SUNY Presidents Laud Governor’s Call to Empower Public Higher Education

The presidents of six campuses across Central New York today (Jan. 15) called Gov. David Paterson’s Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act a bold and historic move to unleash the potential of the State University.

The act would grant a degree of flexibility and autonomy to SUNY that university leaders have long sought. It would separate the state’s 64 campuses from other state agencies, grant the system’s board of trustees significant tuition-setting authority and free campuses from burdensome purchasing and contracting constraints.

The six area presidents, representing the different sectors of the State University system, are David Smith of Upstate Medical University, Deborah F. Stanley of SUNY Oswego, Erik Bitterbaum of SUNY Cortland, Neil Murphy of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Ray Cross of SUNY Morrisville and Debbie Sydow of Onondaga Community College.

“This is the most comprehensive higher education legislation since the creation of SUNY in 1948,” they said in a joint statement. “If approved, it will allow a historic leap forward for our State University system, giving us the flexibility to be more entrepreneurial, more agile in addressing the needs of our students and communities, and a much more powerful engine for economic growth and job creation in the Central Upstate region. Freed from overregulation, we will be able to devote additional energies and resources to our core mission: preparing our students for productive futures. Gov. David Paterson, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Chancellor Matthew Goldstein should be commended for their visionary leadership in crafting this important piece of legislation.”

Among the proposed reforms they cited as particularly advantageous to their campuses:

– All campus-based revenue would remain campus revenue not subject to state budget appropriation or other reallocation.

– The SUNY board of trustees would be empowered to implement the more equitable and predictable tuition policy that university leaders have been proposing for several years. Students and their families could count on and budget for predictable tuition increases, instead of sporadic double-digit hikes. Campuses could improve planning and budgeting by having a more solid basis for revenue projections.

– Burdensome and duplicative pre-approval of university contracts by the state comptroller and the attorney general would be eliminated. Accountability would be maintained by post-audits.

– Campuses would have the ability to engage in joint and cooperative arrangements with public, non-profit and business entities in partnerships and shared ventures.

– Community colleges, including OCC, would have access to Dormitory Authority funding for construction of residence halls.

– The State University Construction Fund would be able to operate more efficiently by using modern project delivery methods and less cumbersome procurement practices. Many campuses are undergoing major renovations. The governor’s proposal could help speed projects and stretch the allocated funding further.