Assembly Budget Rejects Governor’s Cuts to Higher Education

Resolution commits over $10 million in SUNY capital projects to local colleges
March 17, 2005

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) announced that the Assembly’s budget resolution rejects Governor Pataki’s egregious cuts to SUNY, and fully restores funding to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the state’s educational opportunity programs. The resolution also commits over $10 million towards the rehabilitation and expansion of the Student Union Building at SUNY New Paltz and the much needed renovation of Ulster County Community College’s microbiology lab (Resolution C322).

"In his ten years as Governor, George Pataki has failed to realize that the key to New York’s economic viability is directly tied to access to quality and affordable education," said Mr. Cahill. "The Assembly’s budget recognizes the value of an educated citizenry and rightly rejects the Governor’s proposal to increase costs while reducing the quality of our public institutions of higher learning."

The Assembly’s resolution would invest over $336 million more than the Governor in higher education. The resolution spares students from a second tuition increase in three years by providing enough state support to offset the revenue that would have been raised through the Governor’s proposed $500 tuition hike. It also provides an additional $163.7 million for TAP – rejecting the Governor’s attempt to reduce financial aid awards by 50 percent.

In addition, the Assembly turns away the Governor’s cynical attempt to cut educational opportunity programs, which play an integral role as one of the few lifelines available to students residing in underperforming rural and inner-city school districts. The Assembly budget would also increase state support to community colleges by $115 per full-time equivalent student from $2,235 to $2,350. This would restore funding for community colleges to the level authorized by the Legislature last year before being vetoed by the Governor. The restoration would mean an additional $253,000 for Ulster County Community College, bringing their total amount of state support to $5,170,000. Dutchess County Community College would see their total amount of state support increase to $13,810,950, which is $675,855 more than the Governor’s proposal.

Also included in the Assembly’s budget proposal are over $762 million in funding for public colleges in the multi-year capital plan. In both the Assembly and Senate capital plans SUNY New Paltz is slated to receive $10 million for the renovation of their Student Union Building and Ulster County Community College would get $286,000 for the expansion of their microbiology lab. Funding for both of these projects was vetoed by the Governor last year.

"I am pleased that my efforts to secure funding for these critical projects have once again been recognized in the Legislature’s budget proposals," said Mr. Cahill. "I can only hope that the Governor realizes just how vital these undertakings are to both the college communities and to the Ulster County economy."

"Funding to renovate and improve the Student Union Building at New Paltz will have a profound, positive impact on the quality of student life at this campus," said SUNY New Paltz President Steven Poskanzer. "This will be the most significant enhancement of student life in several decades at the college. Our State Assemblymember and loyal alum Kevin Cahill has been a true champion for the college on this issue. We’re deeply grateful to him for his stalwart leadership and support of SUNY New Paltz."

"The SUNY New Paltz Student Union has not once been renovated in its thirty-plus years of existence," stated Mr. Cahill. "The Governor’s approval of this appropriation will allow for important upgrades to the building’s technology to make it a better venue for student events and the hub for student activity it was always meant to be."

Should the funding be approved in the final budget, SUNY Ulster’s Nursing program will be able to add microbiology as a requirement with the addition of a laboratory facility that will not only serve that program but will also support biology, veterinary technology and a variety of other health-related courses. Even if it were not for recent security concerns that require hospitals to be prepared to identify and treat potential infections associated with bio-terrorism, the proliferation of blood borne pathogens, an increase in harmful bacteria in food and water, and the resurgence of diseases like tuberculosis demand that nurses be fully trained in microbiological techniques.

Donald C. Katt, President at SUNY Ulster, expressed appreciation to Assemblyman Cahill for his efforts to include the Microbiology Lab in the final budget. "The College has always been known for the quality of its nursing program, which has been looking forward to the creation of this lab for the past few years. Recently, new programs in the health sciences, Paramedic, Emergency Medical Technician, and Veterinary Technician have increased the need for microbiology laboratory facilities. This appropriation is the answer to several pressing campus needs."

"Nursing graduates of Ulster County Community College comprise the backbone of the professional staffs at area hospitals and physicians offices," said Assemblymember Cahill. "This appropriation would allow our health care facilities to continue meeting modern challenges with the best equipped and most qualified staff."

During the governor’s 10 years in office, he has proposed raising SUNY tuition more than 125 percent – an amount the Legislature has consistently scaled back in an attempt to keep the cost of a college degree affordable to all. Over the course of his tenure as Governor, George Pataki has targeted higher education with over $3 billion in cuts – with nearly one-third of a billion ($295 million) in proposed cuts this year alone. This year’s proposal would have increased tuition at SUNY by 11 percent. The Governor also called for continuing last year’s $65 per student cut to local community college base aid – a cut that would most likely lead to tuition hikes and local property tax increases.

"SUNY was created to offer the citizens of New York publicly funded institutions of higher learning that would remain open and accessible to all students seeking to further their education, this Governor’s record on higher education has done nothing but undermine that goal." noted Mr. Cahill. "It is my job as a representative of the people to make it easier, not harder, to have access to quality and affordable higher education. I believe that the Assembly’s budget proposal accomplishes just that."