Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY initiative was the subject of discussion in the state assembly earlier this month. Cuomo explained that funding for public colleges could be linked to the attractiveness of businesses to tax-free zones. If State University of New York and City University of New York schools do not submit “performance improvement plans,” Cuomo proposed withholding 10 percent of federal aid, essentially shifting the funding distribution from enrollment-based to performance-based funding.
A point in the plan that is still open for discussion and approval by SUNY trustees and the state’s Division of Budget is the “financial incentives for campus presidents who provide proven leadership resulting in commercialization of research through the START-UP NY Program,” as stated on the website, which created tax-free zones for certain businesses.
Cuomo expressed his belief that this program is essential in reviving the state economy. Critics on both sides of the administration, however, are adamant that the incentive will bring forth more issues, essentially discriminating against schools that produce the performance improvement plans and those who do not.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs for higher education, said that she believes linking funding that supports academia to economic development programs creates conflicts of interest with schools and their leaders.
“At a time when we’re talking about how important ethics are, I don’t think that it’s appropriate changing the role of a college president into a venture capitalist,” Glick said in a statement.
In support of the Cuomo initiative, Morris Peters, a spokesman for the Division of the Budget, said in a statement that the withholding of funds from public colleges would only happen if the schools do not submit the performance plan, not the execution of the plan. According to Peters, the performance-based funding has been used with community colleges “via the Next Generation NY Job Linkage Program” and has been proven successful.
President of the United University Professions Fred Kowal noted that it is irresponsible to use funding as an incentive for colleges and their presidents when they are paid enough as is. The union would rather see colleges give more money to hire full-time faculty and staff who would eventually live in the communities, pay taxes and support the economy instead to turning public buildings “tax free.”
As of today, there is still much debate on whether or not the START-UP Program will bring forth enough gain with the detrimental risks.