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SUNY schools request more investment from state budget

Julia Botero
Jefferson Community College President Carole McCoy and SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran request more funding for SUNY school in upcoming state budget.

SUNY colleges across New York are asking that state legislators include more than $34 million for higher education in this year’s budget. They would like New York to close the growing gap between how much state aid a student receives and how much they are expected to pay each year.

Jefferson Community College President Carol McCoy and SUNY Canton President ZviSzafranaddressed a room of school faculty and reporters in a classroom on the Jefferson Community College campus.  Szafransays  SUNY schools keep charging more  every year. The state has programs to help students pay for college like the tuition assistance program or TAP.

“But TAP is capped which means it doesn’t go up each year,” Szafran said.

This means students have to pay more tuition. Szafran explains its often more than a low-income North Country family can afford. So colleges dig into their wallets to help make up the difference. Last year SUNY Canton paid about $1.5 million in aid to students. Szafran says  if the state covered that expense instead, the school could concentrate on keeping their tuition even.

“This is really important because even though SUNY has the lowest tuition in the northeast, we are $6,000 a year. But $6,000 is still a lot of money for families in the North Country,” Szafran said.

Carol McCoy says students are now shouldering 45% of the costs of their college education and she believes that’s too high.

“I also strongly believe that one of the reasons the state tuition have gotten so high is the under-funding by the state of New York,” McCoy said.

She says because of this lack of support, schools often have no alternative but to ask students to pay more.

“You have to pay for an education somehow. And when counties are unable to provide the funds and the state is unable we have one place to go and that is the student body. We don’t like to do that but there is a cost to providing an education,” McCoy said.

Community colleges are feeling some heat from the governor after his remarks in his state of the state address. He said community colleges  are charging students too much tuition, running up debt and training students for jobs that don’t exist.

McCoy says community colleges are trying to provide quality educations but that comes with a high price tag. That’s why SUNY schools are also asking legislators to create an investment fund to support programs that will help students graduate on time. The fund would require $32 million more than the $18 million already in the state budget. McCoy says she believes Cuomo and state legislators are open to investing more in education.

“We know that the state can’t fund everything.  I believe as do my colleagues that with the type of returns that students, the state and taxpayers get that that is a very worthy of investment.”

We are entering the final weeks of budget negotiations in Albany. Cuomo has three weeks to agree with legislators on a new state budget for the coming year. The deadline is April 1.