Assemblymember Cahill: Tuition Costs Soar While SUNY Finances Come Under Scrutiny

SUNY should clean up its books before pushing more tuition hikes
January 21, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) called on officials at the State University of New York (SUNY) to put their own financial house in order before proposing more tuition increases or cuts to educational programs. Assemblymember Cahillís comments were in response to a recent audit by the State Comptrollerís Office, which found questionable spending and hiring practices, poor inventory control and a lack of oversight at SUNYís administrative headquarters in Albany.

"State auditors found sloppy bookkeeping and questionable spending at SUNY Central. The report is especially troubling considering the stateís difficult financial situation and the administrationís repeated attempts to push through higher tuition costs," Assemblymember Cahill said.

State auditors examined financial records and management practices at SUNY Central, which oversees the stateís 25 colleges, four university centers and three health science centers.

A few of the discrepancies reported were:

  • 22 percent of the items on the SUNY administrationís equipment inventory records were unaccounted for Ė more than 400 items valued in excess of $723,000;
  • 9 SUNY employees received pay raises totaling $120,296 without required performance assessments to justify the increases; and
  • Possible unnecessary or inappropriate business expenses for employee travel, lodging and meals.

"This latest audit raises serious concerns of mismanagement and wasteful spending," Assemblymember Cahill said. "If SUNY Central cleaned up its act, improved fiscal oversight and looked at cost-cutting measures, we could better avoid future tuition hikes. We donít need to create any more obstacles to an affordable college education and a chance for a brighter future for New York students."

During the Governorís nine years in office, he has proposed raising SUNY tuition by a total of 126 percent - an amount the Legislature has consistently scaled back in an attempt to keep the cost of higher education affordable to all. In addition, since the Governor took office in 1995, non-tuition fees at SUNY have increased by nearly 140 percent, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The SUNY Board of Trustees ignored the Assemblyís objections and approved a measure that could result in annual tuition increases for the stateís more than 200,000 full- and part-time students.

SUNY Trustees and the Governorís administration have increasingly come under fire for their lack of public accountability and secretive tactics used to push through tuition hikes. The Comptrollerís Office has also investigated questionable accounting and spending practices at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other state agencies.

"Thereís a disturbing trend of wasteful spending and politicization of SUNY by the Governorís administration. My colleagues in the Assembly Majority and I will continue to fight this year for real reforms that restore public confidence and accountability to state government. I urge the Governor and his administration to work with us to accomplish that goal," Assemblymember Cahill concluded.