This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

UB budget called best in decades

  • “That is the best executive budget in four years. And the best set of budget circumstances for UB that I can recall.”

    Sean Sullivan
    Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Budget
Published: May 3, 2012

UB is facing the best budget situation it has seen in decades, according to Bruce D. McCombe, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Tuesday’s budget presentation in the Center for Tomorrow, North Campus, laid out UB’s budget circumstances over the past 12 months and for the coming year, and described the potential opportunities the university has in the years to come.

McCombe said UB can begin its transition from recent fiscal challenges to promising opportunities, thanks to support from Albany, including a long-term commitment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Over the next five years, we can build an impressive set of offerings for students and greatly enrich their academic experience at UB,” he said. “We can transform the whole university environment by increasing the size of our faculty, offering more courses with additional sections, and providing more staff and support for all educational activities. Meanwhile, we will build our capacities to attract sponsored research and stimulate economic development in Buffalo and Western New York.”

Sean Sullivan, vice provost for academic planning and budget, organized and delivered the presentation, a project that began after McCombe discovered that many people weren’t aware of how positive the university’s budget actually is.

“We gave this presentation initially to the Professional Staff Senate Executive Committee and subsequently to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee,” said McCombe “We had a good response and wanted to get this information out there.”

Sullivan added that it has been a remarkable year in terms of how many pieces of the budget have come together in such a concentrated period of time.

The first of those elements was Cuomo’s decision to sign NYSUNY 2020 legislation, the driver of much of the optimism. The challenge grant program unveiled last year creates a rational tuition plan for the SUNY centers, including UB.

“The governor understood our tuition situation in the national marketplace…and NYSUNY 2020 was born,” Sullivan said.

The plan allows UB to raise undergraduate tuition by $300 a year and includes a $75 annual fee the first year that increases by an additional $75 for each of five years. By that time, UB’s 22 percent tuition increase is projected to still be 8 percent below the average tuition increase of peer institutions across the country. In addition, UB will increase tuition in post-baccalaureate programs at market rates over the period.

“We will actually be even more competitive in terms of cost at the end of this program than we are now,” Sullivan said.

What amounts to a moderate increase for students, however, is an unprecedented amount of investment funding for the university.

“It’s estimated that these tuition increases across all programs will bring nearly $100 million annually to UB—and it’s recurring, $100 million dollars every year permanently by five years from now,” said Sullivan. “This revenue growth gives us an unparalleled opportunity to build our university.”

In addition to the tuition program, the other major aspect of NYSUNY 2020 involves moving the School of Medicine and Biomedical Science from its current location on the South Campus to the downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The two-phase project involves the initial relocation and construction at Main and High streets in Buffalo, estimated to be completed by the summer of 2016, followed by a second phase that includes another building at High and Ellicott streets, with an estimated completion date of 2023.

“It will bring together all the ingredients of a true academic medical center in Western New York,” Sullivan said.

The advent of NYSUNY 2020 has enabled the university to create a new budget model to distribute the increasing revenues afforded by the program. Rather than holding incremental money centrally, funds earned beyond the base can be distributed to the units.

“This new model allows for planning and more certainty in building strategic investment plans for our future,” said Sullivan.

But that future depends on maintaining current enrollment levels and growing enrollments at the margin in key strategic areas across the academic areas. Sullivan said that three-year plans in each area of the university are important to ensure that enrollment and faculty/staff hiring plans are in place and responsive to NYSUNY 2020 goals. These will be simple, straightforward statements of direction, with the central focus on faculty hiring.

“Enrollment drives tuition revenue and tuition revenue drives investment in faculty, which improves the student-to-faculty ratio and the educational experience, as well as the research strength of the university. That research strength will drive an improvement in national stature and greater economic impact in our region,” he said.

Going into the new fiscal year beginning July 1, Sullivan said Cuomo kept his promise—there were no reductions from Albany to the university’s base budget. Albany’s support of the medical school’s move is even ahead of schedule, with Cuomo delivering funding in the capital budget a year earlier than expected.

“That is the best executive budget in four years,” Sullivan said. “And the best set of budget circumstances for UB that I can recall.”