Published February 1, 2011
Governor Andrew Cuomo released his executive budget proposal and it calls for deep reductions in state spending, and includes a 10 percent cut to SUNY’s operating budget. These proposed cuts will make it even more difficult for us to continue to provide an excellent and accessible education to our students, advance our academic enterprise, and enrich our communities.
The University at Buffalo strives for excellence in our academic mission of research, teaching, and public service. Public funds historically have provided significant support for the university’s mission as a public university. State support has been especially important because New York’s policy makers have chosen for decades to keep SUNY’s tuition and fees among the lowest in the nation. Yet for this compact to work in maintaining both educational quality and access, very low tuition must be supported by state funding. This is eroding rapidly.
Prior to these most recent proposed cuts, the state already has cut $63 million from UB’s funding since 2008—a decrease of 30 percent. To absorb these large and unprecedented cuts, we have made strategic reductions in virtually every area of the university. In reaching these difficult decisions, we consulted with our faculty, staff and students, and we sought to protect UB’s academic quality, help our students stay on track to graduate, and maintain essential services for students. Our cost-saving strategies have included:
· Streamlining our administrative operations and making smart use of technology to save dollars,
· Reducing our payroll costs through early retirement programs and a hiring moratorium, and
· Using up the financial reserves that we had planned to re-invest in the university in order to achieve the UB 2020 strategic plan.
These strategies have served us well. They have allowed us to absorb the largest funding cuts in UB history without irrevocably harming our academic mission. I now fear, however, that we have reached the limits of what these strategies can do.
Although we have not yet made any decisions, additional large reductions in state support will leave UB no choice but to consider options that will impact our students, faculty, and programs directly.
I was heartened that the Governor has introduced legislation that would provide support for two of the three policy reforms we have sought through the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act: those related to procurement and to public-private partnerships. While the key cornerstone of this reform package—implementing a rational tuition policy—is not part of the executive budget proposal at this time, we will continue working with Albany to secure this critical reform, and toward the eventual enactment of all of these legislative reforms, which are vitally important for the future of our university, our region and our state.
We continue to have productive conversations with the governor’s office, and I am encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s positive statements in support of UB 2020. I know that he understands the important role that public research universities like UB can play as the engines of innovation for their regions and their state.
I urge UB, SUNY, and Western New York to continue to fight for the policy reforms we have been seeking for the past three years. These reforms will help UB become a stronger and better university—one that makes an even greater impact on our surrounding regions.
John B. Simpson