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Stung by Gov. Cuomo's handling of the state budget crisis, leaders of Western New York's private colleges and universities countered Friday with a study that shows their schools collectively pump $236 million into the local economy.

"We've taken a hit," noted the Very Rev. James M. Demske, president of Canisius College. "We haven't gotten the kind of support that it would be wise for the state to give us."

The governor has proposed reductions for Tuition Assistance Program recipients, as well as a 3.4 percent cut in state aid payments to independent colleges and universities.

C. Mark Lawton, president of the Albany-based Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, was present Friday at Daemen College in Snyder when the local economic impact study was released. He called the governor's package for higher education "a terribly faulted vision -- a disinvestment in higher education that will reduce access."

The local study aims to show that harming institutions of higher education will cut into the economic benefit that private colleges generate -- in the employment they provide and the spending power their students and faculty represent.

"If the private colleges closed their doors tomorrow and vanished, $236 million would be gone," said George M. Palumbo, the Canisius economics professor who conducted the study.

Palumbo noted that his study does not take into account that 65 percent of those who graduate from a private college or university in Western New York remain in the area and contribute to the economy.

According to the results, which were compiled from information for 11 local institutions, every student at a private college in the area generated $15,269 in income for Western New Yorkers in 1989-90. In that same period, the private colleges and universities accounted for retail sales totaling $212.1 million.

The study covered Niagara and St. Bonaventure universities; Canisius, Daemen, D'Youville, Hilbert, Houghton, Medaille, Trocaire and Villa Maria colleges, and Sisters Hospital School of Nursing.

Together, those campuses employ 3,414 people and have payrolls totaling $63.7 million. They enroll 15,486 undergraduate students and maintain operating budgets totaling $159.8 million, according to Palumbo.

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