Tenney Looks To Improve Higher Ed

A Legislative Column from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R, C, I - New Hartford)
January 21, 2011
Recently, I was named as a member of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education and with so many wonderful colleges and universities within and surrounding the 115th Assembly District, I am hoping to use this appointment to give greater voice to the real issues current college or university students and college-bound students and their families are facing.

This week, the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor gave her State of the University address and while she highlighted the fact that four-year tuition at SUNY is the lowest in the nation, the reality is that the cost of a higher education degree is still prohibitive for many New Yorkers. At the same time, a college or post-graduate degree is becoming more and more necessary to compete in today’s global economy.

Because graduates cannot afford to pay off years of debt while they look for employment and settle into careers, we must make sure that the cost of an education remains reasonably priced. Moreover, we must make sure that students are getting more for their money, and that means degrees can no longer be just a diploma to hang on the wall or broad liberal-arts knowledge. Students must have industry-specific training using today’s technology and programs in order to find a job after they graduate.

Unfortunately, the answer in Albany year-after-year has been to raise tuition or cut funding. However, there are many colleges and universities achieving real success by thinking outside the box. For example, some schools are partnering with private enterprise to conduct research and development or give students real-world workforce training opportunities. Moving the educational experience from the classroom is delivering meaningful, applicable learning opportunities to better prepare our students.

This model will help to strengthen our state’s business climate and improve our economy. Ultimately, students are not only more prepared, but they will have jobs available to them close to their homes and families. This will help to curtail the brain drain of young, talented, educated graduates fleeing New York State for jobs out of state.

As a member of the Higher Education Committee, I look forward to meeting with the colleges and universities in Oneida and Oswego counties, as well as their students, professors, parents and community members to hear their hopes for better solutions, improved education and a more efficient process. I also welcome members of the business community, farms, manufacturers and any employers to reach out to me with their ideas as well. Please share your ideas with me by e-mailing tenneyc@assembly.state.ny.us or calling my temporary district office at 315-762-4383. I hope that by working together we can enact some common-sense reforms that both strengthen our higher education system as well as our economy for the benefit of all.