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Don't just hold the line on a SUNY budget next year, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt has urged Gov. Pataki, increase it.

In a letter to Pataki on the subject, Hoyt asked for the restoration of funding in the State University of New York system to 1994 levels.

Since taking office, Pataki repeatedly has decreased the SUNY budget while raising tuition by unprecedented amounts, Hoyt said in his letter.

Cuts in state funding have totaled more than $137 million in the past three years, he stated. Plus, he added, a $750 tuition hike in 1995 was the largest in the history of the SUNY system and was followed by a drop of more than 10,000 in enrollment numbers for that year.

"Many of those students were part-timers working to pay for their own education and had nowhere else to go after SUNY became too expensive. Enrollment continues to drop to this day," Hoyt wrote.

Local schools have been "particularly hard hit" by the cutbacks, Hoyt said, with Buffalo State College and the University at Buffalo being prime examples of institutions struggling under the current budget limits. Hoyt is a graduate of Buffalo State.

"Cuts to SUNY hurt virtually all segments of the Western New York population," Hoyt wrote to the governor.

Faculty numbers and quality also have been affected by state cuts, the assemblyman said.

The system underwent a 14.5 percent decline in full-time faculty between 1994 and 1996, an overall decrease of almost 1,600 faculty members, he stated.

"Although SUNY is the largest public university system in the country, 40 states invest more per capita in higher education than does New York," Hoyt stated.

"Holding the SUNY budget harmless is not good enough, however. It is an imperative starting point," he concluded. "In order for New York to return to its status as the Empire State, we must invest in our future by investing in SUNY. Now is the time to restore the cuts of past years."

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