SUNY facing worst cuts in over 10 years

Only one quarter into the 2009 fiscal year and the State University of New York operating budget-already weakened by several cuts-has been reduced once again.

Kenneth Levison, vice president of administration and finance, explained that the drastic cuts implemented by Gov. Patterson have put SUNY schools in a very difficult position.

"This brings the total cut to $146.3 million," he said. "That represents a 7.3 percent reduction in state tax dollar support."

President Christopher Dahl described the cuts' effects on Geneseo. "This is the most difficult budget situation the college has faced in more than a decade," Dahl said. "It has already required us to make stringent economies in our budget."

Levison and Dahl both acknowledged the need for a tuition increase, which has only happened once in the past 13 years.

"Given the increasing difficulties with the state budget, it appears that the only way to maintain essential academic programs in the coming year will be through a tuition increase," Dahl said.

Levison stressed that Geneseo needs a source of funding in order maintain the college's standards. For example, before the cuts were made, professor's salaries, which were far below the national mean, were raised. "We have wonderful professors here and it's not right if they're not at the mean nationally," Levison said.

The only way a tuition increase can be enacted, however, is if SUNY's Board of Trustees approves one. "I don't think the state is making the right choices," said Levison. "We're hoping the trustees make the right choices by taking actions that will support the quality of the university."

If and when the tuition increase occurs, Levison noted that students in need of financial aid could look to the New York State Tuition Assistance Program.

"TAP will be there to support those students and their families who are in need of financial assistance," he said.

Dahl suggested that individual SUNY schools should be able to set tuitions rather than being standard within the system. "I believe that SUNY should have the ability to set their own tuition system-wide," he said. "Tuition shouldn't be a political football."

While SUNY funding has been drastically cut, other state education systems have not been affected in the same way. According to Levison, K-12 has received an additional $3 billion in funds in the past three years and Dahl noted that CUNY has not been hit as hard as SUNY has in their cuts.

Dahl said that he hopes a SUNY-wide unified advocacy system will bring together 427,000 students and their families to pressure the state government to increase SUNY funding.