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SUNY and CUNY students need the state's help

SUNY chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on April 23,

SUNY chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on April 23, 2010. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

For generations of NYC residents, education has been the pathway to success. For many, that has meant a degree from a CUNY or SUNY school.

Each system offers an education that is among the most affordable in the Northeast. And as the colleges grow in stature and quality, students are getting more bang for their bucks.

CUNY and SUNY are now in the throes of state budget negotiations and, although their issues are different, it all boils down to the same thing: Each needs more money from the state. And they deserve it. It's time to pay up.

The SUNY system has benefited from a schedule adopted in 2011 of yearly tuition increases capped at $300 each, which gave schools predictable revenue growth and students a better idea of costs. It worked, and New York should continue the plan for another five years. But the state has kept its own funding flat, which followed four years of precipitous declines. Students now bear 70 percent of the SUNY funding burden, instead of 50 percent, as was the case eight years ago.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher's request for an increase of $50 million per year for five years is reasonable. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to throw only $18 million into the pot. More money would help Zimpher make good on her bold promise to increase the number of SUNY graduates from 93,000 a year to 150,000 by 2020 -- by expanding strategies that have worked on some campuses to keep students from dropping out. They include better advising, math remediation classes and a guarantee SUNY will pay for required classes if they're not available when needed.

The governor's budget also contains a $51-million shortfall for CUNY's four-year schools which, if not bridged, will result in cuts in programs and services. And the 24-campus system needs money beyond that to finally settle negotiations with faculty and teaching staff, who have been working without a contract since 2010.

The state should give SUNY and CUNY the money they need to keep getting stronger and to keep building vibrant paths to success.


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