Cosman: Enrollment-based fund allocation fair, critics misguided

The new SUNY model for resource allocation, which was unveiled to the SUNY Student Assembly on Nov. 27 and which relies heavily on enrollment-based distribution, is the fairest way to distribute the $787 million in funding. While the majority of SUNY’s four-year liberal arts colleges will indeed see a decrease in funding, there simply is no better way to allocate the funds, and any critics who suggest otherwise are blinded by their own bias.

According to the model, 87 percent of the $787 million will be allocated according to school enrollment. Vice Chancellor for Financial Services and Chief Financial Officer for SUNY Brian Hutzley put it best: “The more students you have, probably the more money you’re going to get.”

In a situation where the SUNY system has a finite amount of funds to distribute, the enrollment-based approach is the only fair way to distribute. Frankly, it is surprising that funding wasn’t already being distributed based on student enrollment. Hutzley’s statement makes perfect sense – if a school has more students, then clearly it needs more funding. 

Vice President of Administration and Finance Jim Milroy believes a model where “everybody in the system is getting the same amount of money to educate people … drives mediocrity,” and “doesn’t fund excellence.” It’s difficult to see that as a legitimate critique.

It comes down to Geneseo’s preoccupation with its own “excellence.” 

Sure, it’s easy for Geneseo students and faculty to believe the school deserves a greater share of funding simply because our admission SAT scores are higher than most of SUNY’s other schools. How could it possibly be fair that SUNY New Paltz is going to see a 5 percent increase in funding when Geneseo is trying its damnedest to become an honors college?

According to a Nov. 29 article published in The Lamron, Student Association President Carly Annable said she hopes that SUNY will “re-evaluate the way [it’s] setting up the resource allocation model.” But with its limited resources, there is no better way for SUNY to allocate funding. 

If SUNY distributes the funds using a different model that leads to an increase in funding for Geneseo, how is that fair to SUNY Albany or SUNY Brockport? What does SUNY tell those schools when it gives more funding to Geneseo?

The air of superiority in Milroy’s comment that “Our view is that people come to Geneseo because Geneseo offers a certain kind of education. If you want excellence, you need to fund excellence,” is baffling. There is only a certain amount of funds; if SUNY funds “excellence” at Geneseo, what does it say to other schools? Tough luck that its students don’t score 1300 on their SATs?

Enrollment-based education is the only objective way for SUNY to allocate funding. Any other model heads toward the subjective – and the subsequent rat’s nest of which school deserves more.

There is good reason to be upset that Geneseo is seeing a decrease in funding. But SUNY is not the one to take to task for that. They are doing their best with “optimization of limited resources.” Even the state isn’t the problem; they too have limited funding available and must balance their budget. It is the despicable lack of education funding from the federal government that leads us to SUNY’s new allocation model. 

Geneseo has not achieved its deservedly great reputation by complaining about insufficient funding. We’re a public university – insufficient funding is part of the nature of public education, and it’s not going to go away any time soon. Geneseo is the school it is because it exemplifies greatness no matter the funding it receives.