SUNY faculty union calls for more state funding to erase deficits at ESF, other campuses
A union representing professors at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and other area campuses warns that massive operating deficits threaten the future viability of the institution.
They say multiple SUNY campuses are dealing with a deficit for the current fiscal year. SUNY ESF faces a $9 million deficit, while SUNY Cortland has a $10.9 million and SUNY Oswego and Suny Morrisville have a $5 and $5.8 million deficit, respectively.
The president of United University Professions, Fred Kowal, said Gov. Kathy Hochul was the first governor in 15 years to successfully push through an increase in state support for SUNY in last year’s budget. But he said that was only a starting point to getting the public back in public education.
“This can only be accomplished through a full financial commitment by the state ending the reliance on student tuition and fees to fund the system and the harmful privatization practices that are ongoing," Kowal said. "We cannot fix the financial problems we face in SUNY by limiting class options, overcrowding classrooms, or raising tuition or fees.”
Kowal acknowledges that the state is covering tuition for eligible students through its excelsior program. But ESF freshman Sara Fleischauer said other costs add up.
“Housing is $5,500 for a semester," Fleischauer said. "Meal plans are $2,000, and the lowest meal plan you can get is 85 meals per semester, which is not enough meals, three meals a day, 85 meals per semester. That doesn't work. It would just mean so much to me if I could graduate not having to worry about all the debt that I'm going to be in after this and go into the world prepared.”
Kowal said that’s just one example.
“And what you are emphasizing, Sara, in terms of those other costs that should bring home the incredible expense that faces students when the state of New York basically breaks its word and does not provide the state funding that we are demanding for the institutions which we serve," Kowal said.
Kowal and others said the SUNY system needs to be fully funded to meet the increasing demands for teachers, healthcare workers, environmental experts, and others. Onondaga County Comptroller Marty Masterpole, also a SUNY alumnus, called out the recent workforce demands due to Micron but detailed how ESF is in need as well.
“There's a lot of jobs to fill," Masterpole said. "We need a quality education here at home, supported by the state to fill those jobs. We are supporting Micron with tax incentives, as we should because of the size and magnitude of the project. But let's support our local educational system.”
Union officials said SUNY’s economic contributions more than justify additional state support. The system employs more than 7,000 people in central New York, supports an additional 21,000 jobs and has a regional economic impact of nearly $4 billion.
Representatives for ESF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to correct the spelling of the student's name.