The New York State Legislature approved the Maintenance of Effort bill in June 2015, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet ruled on the bill. The bill specifies that the state will increase funding to State University of New York and City University of New York colleges to cover obligatory costs such as salary increases for employees. According to adjunct lecturer in English and languages and literatures and president of the Geneseo chapter of the United University Professions Wes Kennison ‘79, after SUNY advocated for the initial increase in tuition costs, funding from the state decreased.
“If we raise tuition, we have a little more money to work with—except that in the same year, what the legislature does is cut state support,” he said. “So if I raise tuition and they cut state support, what has actually happened? … [Students are] paying more money for the same thing.”
According to the UUP website, “Student tuition and fees account for 64 percent of the operating cost funding and the state pays a mere 36 percent of those costs.”
“Every time your tuition goes up and [the state does not] provide more money to SUNY, it means that the percentage of funding to SUNY out of state revenues has been decreasing,” Associate Dean of Leadership and Service, director of the Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development program and former UUP lobbyist Tom Matthews said. “They’ve made major cuts in the last 25 years.”
The rising cost of tuition has affected Geneseo in several ways. “It affects [Geneseo’s] ability to attract the best faculty out there, [its] hiring for positions and to keep faculty and so forth and to offer a quality program for people,” Kennison said. “Families had been asked to help out here with more tuition when it gets taken away from the other side.”
According to Kennison, UUP has been concerned with the problem of tuition increases for a while.
“The reason that we—in a sense—took a position that’s very skeptical of tuition increases is because we [felt] this would happen,” he said. “The Maintenance of Effort is about making sure that the level of state support for the institution stays constant and if we have to raise tuition and create a greater burden for families and students coming here ... we need to know that we’re making the place better, not just continuing to fall behind.”
Matthews echoed this sentiment. “From the students’ perspective and the union’s perspective, if you’re going to raise tuition, then make sure the campuses get the money from the tuition so the students will benefit or it will go back to the students,” he said.
He added that he did not expect to see tuition decrease.
Kennison emphasized his hope that Cuomo will sign the MOE bill. “It isn’t the sort of the decision that’s made independently with only SUNY in mind when it gets to the governor’s office,” he said. “The governor is the one that proposes the budget and then the legislature has to approve it, so the governor has to do a lot of negotiating with the legislature. We’re hoping that since the legislature has passed this, they’re going to be successful in the negotiations with the governor.”
Matthews, however, noted that he is not certain that Cuomo will sign the bill. “The governor, he’s not a particular good friend of SUNY,” he said.
Sophomore Jason Runyan stressed the importance of the MOE bill being signed, particularly in regards to its impact on professors.
“I think this is a great thing that’s going to be happening and ... as somebody who’s going to be a teacher in the future, I’m glad to see that people are beginning to appreciate teachers’ work more,” he said.
Freshman Nicole Marques added that she believes the bill would have a positive impact on students as well. “I think the bill is a very good idea because it will help with funding for SUNYs and help with the cost of students and parents and working students especially,” she said.
Matthews reiterated the importance of student advocacy for the MOE bill.
“You can voice your opinion directly to a senator or assemblyman and to the governor through emails, faxes, phone calls,” he said. “The more students speak up, the better.”