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SUNY argues for a piece of state surplus

The presidents of several SUNY campuses in the region gathered at SUNY ESF to discuss SUNY funding from the state.

The State University of New York is among those making a pitch to get some of the state’s $5 billion windfall from the bank settlements.

Presidents from SUNY schools across the state say they are asking the New York State Legislature to “step up and invest in SUNY.”  

Quentin Wheeler, president of SUNY ESF hosted a call to action for five central New York presidents in Syracuse this week, specifically asking for the state to extend SUNY 2020’s rational tuition increase plan, which is meant to allow students and parents to plan ahead for tuition costs. The SUNY campuses also say they want funds for infrastructure improvements.

“About 47 percent of the gross square footage of the SUNY system was built 45 years or more ago. That creates all kinds of maintenance issues for us,” said Wheeler.

Cortland State President Eric Bitterbaum agrees, noting there also needs to be more of a state investment in faculty salaries.  

"The legislature, with the governor’s insistence gave pay raises, but you can’t give pay raises if you don’t have a budget bill to pay for it. So it comes out of our hide, so to speak. So it would be nice if they would pay for those salary increases,” said Bitterbaum.

The presidents say the dividends of spending on SUNY are massive -- ranging from providing all New Yorkers access to affordable education, to being a major economic driver.    

David Mankiewicz of CenterState CEO says his organization agrees with the plan to spend some the state’s one-time surplus dollars on SUNY, because he says the 64 schools are key to economic development.

"If you want to stimulate economic growth, it’s very clear from the feedback that we’ve had from businesses, is that the most critical element they need is that trained workforce,” said Mankiewicz.

State lawmakers are supposed to make their spending decision by April 1.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.