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Another Voice: Cuomo’s proposals for higher education set him apart from other governors

By Cynthia Zane and Gary A. Olson

As presidents of two Western New York independent colleges, we read with alarm the recent reports of governors in other states proposing deep cuts to higher education. Contrast this record with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s strong record of investing in higher education and leveraging the state’s outstanding public and private higher education assets for economic development.

Rather than taking a myopic view of institutions of higher education, our governor has consistently recognized that the SUNY, CUNY and nonprofit, independent institutions are an economic development driver within Western New York and other key regions of New York.

The governor’s Buffalo Billion, Start-UP NY, and other higher education-private sector partnership programs are proof positive that this governor gets it. During his tenure as governor, he has also been a champion of budget investments through the Tuition Assistance Program and the proven opportunity programs such as the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Program.

Recently, Cuomo took another important and courageous step with a budget amendment proposal for a long-overdue streamlining of the regulatory process for academic program approvals at all institutions of higher education that serve New York students. Under the long-standing bureaucratic processes in Albany, colleges and universities must seek approval from the State Education Department to start new degree programs.

Delays in the approval process – sometimes months, sometimes years – have hampered our ability to respond to the needs of employers and the desires of students and their families. The governor recognized this problem in his fall Policy Book and followed through on his streamlining process promise with his executive budget, as amended.

The governor’s plan, if approved by the Legislature, will allow both public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education to join 36 other states who have no additional layer of State Education Department approvals required, allowing their colleges and universities to adapt quickly to the changing requirements of students and the employers who will hire them upon graduation.

So when New Yorkers hear of deep budget cuts and the failure to recognize the economic impact of our public and independent higher education sectors in others states, we should applaud our own governor for his investment in higher education, and his visionary inclusion of higher education in his near and long-term economic plans for our state.

Cynthia Zane, Ed.D., is president of Hilbert College in Hamburg. Gary A. Olson, Ph.D., is president of Daemen College in Amherst.