Assemblymember Cahill Vows to Fight Higher Education Budget Vetoes; SUNY New Paltz Students and Faculty Call for Overrides
College students were among the hardest hit by Governor Pataki’s budget vetoes. Last week, the Governor eliminated over $1 billion in funding that the Legislature had appropriated to higher education. The cuts centered on the SUNY operating budget, funding for capital projects, financial aid and additional monies for full-time faculty. Included in the vetoes to the capital fund was the $10 million secured by Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster, Dutchess) for the long overdue renovation of Old Main on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
“Over the past twelve years, under Governor Pataki, the state’s funding mechanism has failed students, faculty and the citizens of New York,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “If the state is going to be competitive in the emerging global economy, we need to focus on advancing a comprehensive vision aimed at overhauling our approach to public higher education,” remarked Mr. Cahill. “Overriding these vetoes would be a good place to start.”
"I'm seriously disappointed with Governor Pataki and his obvious disregard for what is important. Higher Education should be the state's top priority. It's a shame he doesn't realize that," said Keishane Esturiene, a Junior at SUNY New Paltz. Mr. Esturiene also benefits from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a frequent target of Governor Pataki’s budget cuts.
"The Governor's vetoes are disappointing, at best and if passed will result in limited access to a SUNY and CUNY education. It is so important that the State Legislature override the Governor's harmful vetoes," said Jackie Hayes, Project Coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a student advocacy organization.
"If the Governor’s vetoes are allowed to stand, our students and the institution itself will suffer. We are already overly dependent on adjunct faculty and with the vetoes in place, we will not even have the funds to cover our existing costs. That will mean even fewer full-time faculty and even greater reliance on underpaid contingent adjunct faculty. That is no way to run an institution of higher learning. The legislature did the right thing when they made their budget and what the Governor has done is wrong. Now it is time to correct his mistakes,” said Brian Obach, Professor of Sociology at SUNY New Paltz.
"The students of SUNY New Paltz are extremely disappointed by the Governor's veto of the $25 million for more full-time faculty members. Here at SUNY New Paltz, the majority of our courses are taught by adjunct and part time faculty members. These part-time faculty do not have to sit office hours and are often much harder for students to get a hold of if in need of extra help, as opposed to the full-time faculty members that are here on campus every day," said Stephanie Adika, Academic Affairs Director for the Student Assembly.
In all, the Governor vetoed more than $1.059 billion in funding for higher education. The most egregious of the Executive’s actions was his rejection of the Legislature’s restoration of $119.5 million to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The Governor’s TAP veto (veto #100) means that:
- Students must take a course load of 15 credits per semester to qualify for TAP awards – compared to the current 12 credits – and students who enroll in or complete 12, 13, or 14 credits per semester would receive a 20% reduction to their reward.
- Colleges would be required to pre-finance TAP awards for first-time applicants without high school diplomas; the colleges would then be reimbursed for the pre-financing costs once the student completes 24 credits.
- All students in default on federal student loans would be ineligible for TAP, regardless of the loan guarantor. Currently, students in default are only ineligible if the loan is guaranteed by HESC.
In addition to the cut to financial aid, the Governor vetoed the following from the Legislature’s budget for higher education:
- $420.926 million for SUNY statutory college capital projects, including $10 million for the renovation of Old Main (veto #113)
- $2 million for SUNY high need programs (veto #109)
- $56.667 million for SUNY additional operating assistance, including $25 million for more full-time faculty (veto #110)
- $1 million for SUNY contract courses and workforce development (veto #111)
- $1.8 million for SUNY community college high need programs (veto #112)
- $22.56 million in SUNY community college capital projects (veto #114)
- $1 million for CUNY contract courses (veto #82)
- $49.47 million for additional operating assistance for CUNY, including $15 million for additional full-time faculty (veto #83)
- $99.68 million for CUNY capital funding (veto #84)
- $264 million for CUNY capital funding (veto #85)
- $20 million for CUNY full-time faculty (veto #116)