Chancellor says SUNY may renege on promise to hire more faculty - The Buffalo News
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Chancellor says SUNY may renege on promise to hire more faculty

ALBANY – The head of the state university system suggested Thursday that campuses will not have the money in the coming year to hire more full-time professors unless lawmakers find ways to add to the funding proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for the nation’s largest public higher education system.

Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, told lawmakers that other spending demands might have to take a priority when the system breaks down the revenues it is getting from higher tuition charges.

Hiring more full-time faculty was a key promise SUNY made when Cuomo and lawmakers several years ago approved a new, annual tuition-hike program intended to drive more money to the individual campuses.

In all, Zimpher asked lawmakers to add another $1.3 billion in operating and capital spending beyond what Cuomo proposed for the SUNY system; $500 million of that would be steered to “critical’’ maintenance and construction programs, and $600 million would go to SUNY’s financially ailing university hospitals.

Zimpher said the state should be covering an $82 million expense for collective- bargaining contracts at SUNY colleges.

She noted that the governor’s budget calls for state aid for SUNY operating expenses to remain flat from 2013, while his budget cuts about $5 million for various programs, including a community college remedial education program intended to increase graduation rates.

Zimpher asked lawmakers to go beyond what Cuomo proposed for per-student aid to community colleges, a $4.6 million request that will bring the state’s funding commitment to the campuses back to levels seen in 2008.

The chancellor also asked lawmakers to double the $500 million capital plan Cuomo proposed for SUNY so campuses can have the authorization to renovate aging classrooms, improve libraries and take care of infrastructure needs at the 64-campus system.

The chancellor said that since the state approved SUNY’s annual tuition hike program, campuses have added 270 full-time professors and created 100 new degree programs.

SUNY students have long complained that the campuses were relying more and more on adjunct professors over full-time faculty and that graduating on time was made more difficult by a shortage of required course offerings.

“We’d like to continue that upward trajectory … but that requires resources,’’ Zimpher said of SUNY’s hope to get more state aid to be able to hire another 250 full-time faculty members.

Frederick Kowal, president of the United University Professions, which represents professors and other SUNY employees, said the governor has proposed a flat state aid for SUNY operating expenses for three years, putting more reliance on student tuition hikes to make up the difference.

While Zimpher sought to portray a system with more full-time professors, Kowal said colleges have reduced course offerings, creating larger class sizes.

The chancellor offered few specifics about the Cuomo administration’s program, approved last year, to let companies locate tax-free for 10 years on SUNY campuses.

She sought to allay concerns by lawmakers that the program will harm existing nearby businesses that will not be able to get the tax-free advantages in the college-based program, including 10 years’ worth of no state personal income taxes paid by employees of the new or expanding companies.

Zimpher said the specifics also are being developed on her recently announced plan to offer eight degree programs online initially at six campuses, which she said could have as many as 100,000 students in the next five years earning four-year degrees over the Internet. The current SUNY system has 463,000 students.


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