Over the past few years as a student at the University at Buffalo, I have observed and provided input to the university's leaders while they were forming the foundation of what is known as UB 2020.
Last summer, the UB 2020 plan was delivered a blow when its surrounding legislation stalled in the New York State Legislature. However, UB and its plan gained a great ally in State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
Recently in The Buffalo News, Zimpher introduced readers to her plan for changing the structure of the SUNY system through the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. This act provides UB and SUNY institutions around the state with the power and flexibility to grow and create large economic impact within their community at no additional cost to the New York State taxpayer.
This legislation mirrors the UB 2020 Act with its goals of eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and allowing SUNY institutions to operate with greater independence. This act enables UB and other SUNY institutions to create partnerships with private business within their communities, and gives SUNY campuses greater control of assets and long-term planning through rational and differential tuition plans.
For students, this act means that the days where our tuition is increased merely to fill gaps in the New York State budget will be over. This act ensures that all of our tuition and fees paid will be spent on our campuses.
In addition, the rational tuition plan will mandate that before students enter a SUNY institution, they will be aware of any future tuition fluctuations during the years they will attend their school of choice, allowing for easier financial planning and decision-making for students and their families.
The UB 2020 Act has faced criticism from the public and internally from the leaders of organized labor. As the son of a United University Professions worker and as a student studying business, I understand the importance of organized labor within American society. But for the leaders of such organizations to stand in opposition of a plan to improve both the university and the local economy without providing mutually amicable solutions is wholly irresponsible.
The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, along with the UB 2020 plan, will directly create thousands of jobs within the Buffalo Niagara community and, while ambitious, they are both worthwhile endeavors. Times of struggle, similar to those our area finds itself in today, have often been faced and overcome with ambitious plans similar to the ones laid out by our university leaders.
It took the courage and hard work of past generations to see these plans through, attributes I believe the future of the University at Buffalo and its surrounding community are depending on.
John J. Martin Jr. is a student representative on the UB Council at the University at Buffalo.