“We believe that every high school student in New York should have the opportunity to be educated at a great … public university, just like the students in Michigan, North Carolina, California, and Pennsylvania.”
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I think the State support per FTE number and where we stand nationally in tuition costs compared to our AAU peers make it very clear why we fought so hard for a rational tuition policy and the possibility of differential tuition. Being able to address the issue of tuition effectively through the SUNY board of trustees would be an important part of dealing with continued decreases in State funding and the rising costs of general operations. It is terribly unfortunate that the State missed the chance to enact the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act during this most recent budget cycle.
I want to make one personal point about PHEEIA. I was stunned and extraordinarily disappointed when some of our elected officials stated they were opposed to PHEEIA, and the concept of differential tuition, because, as they put it, SUNY was created to educate the poor and middle class, and therefore did not need to be excellent. I don’t believe that, you don’t believe that, and I know the students at Stony Brook and their families don’t believe that. No, we believe that every high school student in New York should have the opportunity to be educated at a great, let me say that again, a great, public university, just like the students in Michigan, North Carolina, California, and Pennsylvania. So, we are not done fighting; this is simply too important for New York’s future. And I am very encouraged by the progress we made in the previous legislative session. Our argument was bolstered by strong support from our faculty and staff and our student leaders, as well as major business groups like the LIA, and the State Trade Unions. And thanks to strong champions for Stony Brook and Long Island, like Senator Brian Foley and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, SUNY’s message was brought front and center throughout the State. So we may have lost Round 1, but I remain hopeful and continue to urge the legislators to stay true to the promise for an agreement on a rational tuition policy and increased flexibility for SUNY and Stony Brook in the near future.
So, back to the budget. Needless to say, when you take a nearly 20% cut in the State allocation, and couple it with the lack of any significant increase in tuition revenue or the regulatory relief and enhanced entrepreneurial flexibility that PHEEIA would have provided, you begin to understand why we have been forced to make some very difficult programmatic decisions.
Included among the difficult decisions that we have had to make was the relocation of the sustainability programs from Stony Brook Southampton to our main campus. You will hear more about the developing plans for the Southampton campus in the coming weeks, as the Provost and a committee of campus, SUNY System, and community stakeholders return to their discussions regarding the future use of the campus. But in the meantime, I can say to you that Southampton will remain dedicated to educational purposes, including Marine Science Research, graduate programs in the arts, programs and partnerships with SUNY schools and other key stakeholders, and as a resource for teaching and conference use.
Other decisions that have resulted from budgetary cuts included the closing of one of our leased spaces in Manhattan as well as a continued push toward reducing our workforce through early retirement incentives, voluntary separation programs, and attrition.
Early Retirement/Voluntary Separation
So what about those voluntary separation programs and the early retirement incentives? Some 1,700 Stony Brook employees are eligible for the early retirement and voluntary separation plans. At present, 224 individuals have submitted paperwork expressing interest in taking advantage of these programs, with 61 of those having already made official commitments. Without a doubt, we are going to lose many highly valued and highly qualified employees who will take with them a considerable amount of knowledge and experience when they leave the University. Those of you who remain will be relied upon in an even greater way to help us continue the tradition of excellence in programs and services that is customary for Stony Brook University.
To make the most out of the vacancies that will result, at least from a fiscal perspective, we will not be quick in refilling many of these positions. I do commit to you, however, that we will seek the best possible solutions for continuing the effective operation of every aspect of the University so that our students and faculty do not experience significant decreases in the quality of our programs and services.