SA addresses budget concerns in Albany

 On Monday April 22, six members of Geneseo’s Student Association traveled to Albany to discuss their concerns about Geneseo’s 2013 budget based on the State University of New York budget allocation model with their New York State Legislators. This is the first time in two years that SA has traveled to Albany for this purpose.

“The trip to Albany was [made] to give students a chance to have their voices heard very directly and in person by elected officials,” Director of Student Affairs senior Sadie Baker said.

According to Baker, the discussions were “specifically on the topic of Geneseo’s budget and [how it is affected by] SUNY’s budget set by New York state.”

Recently, there has been discussion across the SUNY system regarding the state funding cutbacks that SUNY is enforcing on several universities, including Geneseo, in order to finance three teaching hospitals in New York. According to Baker, the SA representatives also hoped to address the Tuition Assistance Program, which provides up to $5,000 of state funding for students who are unable to pay full tuition themselves.

“The TAP cap was set at $5,000 a long time ago, before tuition even came close to $5,000,” Baker said. “And since then, tuition has gone far over $5,000 per semester … so we were advocating for an increase of the TAP cap, and of course there’s only so much money to go around in the state of New York.”

Each of the attending students met with a different New York state representative to discuss these issues. Baker spoke with the State Senate Director of Higher Education Committee Nicole Stewart, who she said was very receptive to what SA had to say.

“We spoke at length to her about her issue,” Baker said. “It was really nice to talk to someone who seemed totally familiar about what we were talking about and what we wanted.”

According to Baker, Stewart seemed “glad to know that this was something that really mattered to students.”

SA President senior Carly Annable met with Sen. John DeFrancisco and his chief of staff. According to Annable, DeFrancisco seemed “interested” in what she had to say, though “he was trying to be political.”

SA Director of Public Relations junior Forrest Regan met with U.S. Rep. Al Stirpe and Sen. David Valesky.

“They were really interested in what we had to say,” Regan said. “I was glad they were taking us seriously. I was glad that they understand that our concerns are real and that … our goals are something that can be accomplished.”

According to Regan, the meetings involved discussion about the state placing a legislative firewall between SUNY schools and teaching hospitals in order to prevent budget cuts in the colleges to cover hospital debt, though there are no immediate plans to enact this.

“If we keep receiving cuts, SUNY as a whole would not have institutions like Geneseo to compete with … high-quality liberal arts schools,” Regan said.

“I think that the issue SUNY is having with the hospitals right now is something that they really need to take a closer look at,” Annable said. “SUNY was created to be an academic system and while the hospitals are teaching hospitals, [their debts] shouldn’t be taking away from our institution.”

“It’s really important that Geneseo students make their voices heard firmly, clearly and often,” Baker said.