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SUNY moves ahead; Legislation will help power new economic growth in WNY

Now that the long legislative session has ended, praise is due to those who helped the University at Buffalo pass legislation critical to the future of the institution and community. We will all benefit.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gets kudos for his NYSUNY 2020 bill as a major accomplishment for academic and economic development in Western New York. UB can now move ahead on its plans to build a new $375 million medical school downtown within the next five years, thanks to the governor and lawmakers, particularly the Western New York delegation and, notably, freshman Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, who hit the ground running.

The $35 million in seed money will allow the university to relocate the medical school from the South Campus on Main Street to its logical new home at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. And, over the next five to seven years, it means 3,000 new jobs. In addition, this bill provides revenue to hire faculty and quite possibly move up the ranks of the Association of American Universities. This is a big step forward for UB and community.

This project should be seen as a top public-private collaboration, because the university would pay for the majority of the new medical school through a variety of avenues, which include annual construction funds and philanthropy.

Just as critical, the university was given assurances that it will be given flexibility to partner with a private entity, such as Kaleida Health, which is important for restraining the public costs of construction projects. But that's just the logistics. What all of this means on a grand scale is the most heartening for downtown economic development in attracting the best and brightest.

The measures passed by the State Legislature are being hailed by presidents throughout the system. In particular is the ability for four-year SUNY campuses to raise tuition by $300 a year over the next five years for in-state undergraduate students. It amounts to a 30 percent hike over five years for students. That's a lot, and the impact bears watching, although at $4,970, in-state tuition remains a bargain.

UB and SUNY's other three research universities -- Binghamton, Albany and Stony Brook -- will not be able to hike tuition higher than the other SUNY campuses, but will be allowed to charge a new $75 fee. In addition, the research universities will be able to raise tuition 10 percent for out-of-state students, an important benefit for UB, with its large number of international students.

These are long-sought-after benefits and, importantly, the bill prevents the state from cutting funding to SUNY an amount equal to the revenue generated by tuition increases, which was a long-standing practice in Albany.

It's been a long road, first surveyed several years ago by the University at Buffalo. Now all of upstate will benefit from the leadership of the Western New York delegation and that of the entire community. And, in the end, the governor's leadership. This is a success story that should be celebrated.

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