Cuomo’s budget brings more cuts to SUNY but no tuition hike

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recently-unveiled stated budget proposal calls for a funding cut of $131.4 million from the State University of New York system in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

This comes on the tail of $1.1 billion in state funding cuts to SUNY as a whole over the past three years, including $680 million affecting individual state-operated campuses like Geneseo.

The latest funding cut can be articulated as an $87.9 million net cut, since the state is providing SUNY with $43.4 million to finance contractually obligatory salary increases before applying the $131.4 million cut.

"They talk about the ‘net' cut, but we still really have to deal with the total cut," said Ken Levison, vice president for administration and finance. "The $43.4 million is just raising our base to meet salaries that we have to pay anyway. After the base is raised, we have to deal with the full cut."

For Geneseo, this will mean $1.8 million in cuts on top of a current structural deficit of $7.2 million.

According to President Christopher Dahl, the $1.8 million could grow closer to $2.2 million by the time the cuts manifest.

"There are two caveats on that number," Dahl said. "First, the governor said that he won't be putting in a tuition increase, which is a problem, and second, our $1.8 million estimate is based on the current way in which the system allocates money to campuses."

The method of allocation changed last summer and it is difficult to predict whether such a shift could happen again, Dahl said.

"Cuomo has got to get rid of that $11 billion deficit somehow," Dahl said, "but these cuts are more than we can endure without change in tuition policy or a tuition increase."

Dahl said that under ideal circumstances, he would like to see restoration of state aid to the SUNY system, but acknowledged that such a solution is very unlikely to happen.

"A $400 tuition increase would help," Dahl said, "but I'd rather see a long-term solution like a rational tuition plan than a quick-fix tuition increase."

Dahl said that the governor's budget proposal is subject to adjustments before it reaches its final form. "The legislature could still propose [a tuition increase or change in tuition policy], we can still advocate for it, students could still advocate for it," he said. "Our students are going to Albany on March 1 to advocate. In normal situations, that doesn't happen, but we're seeing students asking for tuition increases because they know what's at stake."

The SUNY Student Assembly and Geneseo's Student Association have both issued formal support for a rational tuition policy that would allow for gradual increases in tuition.