Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
-Anon., quoted in Holinshed's Chronicles 
T IS NOT A NEW IDEA, THIS NOTION THAT THE CHANGES OF OUR ERA CHANGE US. RECENT AND CURRENT EVENTS IN ALBANY AND WASHINGTON-AND THEIR EFFECTS ON OUR CAMPUS-REMIND US HOW TRUE THE OLD OBSERVATION IS. THE CURRENT SITUATION FOR NEW YORK IS GREATLY AFFECTED BY EVENTS AND TRENDS IN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT; IN TURN, THE CHANGING ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CLIMATE OF OUR STATE HAS HAD AND WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE DRAMATIC EFFECTS ON STATE UNIVERSITY AND ON UB.
Two things are certain in this scenario: one, all of us at UB will be touched by these changes; two, we can either have changes made for us, or make our own changes in how we conduct our individual and collective affairs. In the face of current pressures, we must focus on managing change and changing our institution.
That is the point of view behind much of the work that the Provost, Senior Vice President, and I have been doing since this time last year. At a moment when so much is happening so fast, our university community must understand clearly the issues and initiatives on which we are spending our time and energy.
As we are constantly reminded by media coverage of the high- stakes brinkmanship surrounding current federal budget negotiations, deficit reduction is the agenda of the moment. This situation is not entirely partisan, not temporary, and not short-term.
In the contemporary political and demographic mix, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid entitlements, along with a very few other big-ticket items like military preparedness, will be protected. As a result, there will likely be less for higher education and research, public or private.
This situation is mirrored in New York State. The current administration in Albany has made it plain-as in truth any administration in the Capitol would these days be forced to do-that we must and will make our state government smaller, more efficient, more effective, and less costly.
And, at the state level as at the federal, higher education is taking a back seat to other issues and priorities. New York has chosen to be on the high end of the scale in providing-and paying for-virtually every social service. Now, as the state seeks to fill gaps left by vanishing federal dollars and its own revenue-generating limitations, the state budget has become a battleground for providers of social services. These interests invoke the politics of the local real property tax in each state budget negotiation, something SUNY cannot do vis Ã vis its statutory and state-operated colleges. These interests also respond to large groups of voters; regrettably, our primary constituency-young people-is not one of those groups, since many young people do not vote.
This situation notwithstanding, we will continue to insist that educating young people-especially via the access to quality that SUNY offers-must be a crucial priority for state investment. We will also continue to urge upon our state leadership SUNY's value as a resource for new knowledge, new technologies, health care, economic and social development, public service, and highly trained, technically sophisticated graduates. But, even as we all work to raise SUNY's priority with New York and its people, we must confront the realities of the very tough fiscal and political environment which will confront SUNY.
Last year's budget process made it clear that SUNY does not have the option of closing campuses. SUNY is left with this strategy: tighten the belt further, wherever possible; charge our students somewhat more; help them pay the higher tuition; use the new tuition resources to maintain quality; and get greater management flexibility so that we can save every possible dollar on campus operations and earn every possible dollar from new revenue sources.
Last year the New York State Legislature charged the SUNY Board of Trustees to "develop a multi-year, comprehensive, systemwide plan to increase cost efficiency in the continuing pursuit of the highest quality and broadest possible access consistent with the State University mission." Rethinking SUNY, the resulting report, was developed through the efforts of four Trustee committees-responsible, respectively, for examining State University's Mission/Vision, Structure, Operations, and Operating Revenue and Tuition-and was submitted to the Governor and Legislature on December 1. (The full text of the report was reproduced as an insert in the December 7 Reporter.)
UB took every opportunity to have a voice in the Rethinking SUNY process. Senior Vice President Wagner served as a consultant to the Operations and Structure Committees, which ultimately functioned as one committee. Provost Headrick and I offered consultation, commentary, and suggestions (solicited and unsolicited) on a range of issues, but most particularly on the work of the Mission/Vision Committee. For examples of our participation in the systemwide dialogue, see the letter to Trustee Roderick G.W. Chu, Chair of the Mission/Vision Committee and the "Principles Regarding the Respective Roles of Central/System Office and SUNY Trustees and the SUNY 'State-Operated' Campuses," reproduced here at left and on the back page.
As these documents indicate, we sought primarily to call the Board of Trustees' attention to what we felt were crucial principles and central issues. Some but not all of these were reflected in the final Rethinking SUNY report. On the whole we find great merit in Rethinking SUNY, even though we believe that it must go farther in some respects and is problematic in others.
The key issues that surround and shape Rethinking SUNY are these:
C e n t r a l i z a t i o n : The role and function of State University's central office vis-Ã-vis the campuses needs careful thought. At the moment, SUNY Central employs approximately 1,000 people, most of them engaged in processing of transactions, and too few involved in the policy and leadership functions for which SUNY Central is uniquely positioned. This campus is pushing for a smaller, more focused Central; we believe that many of the operational functions which now preoccupy Central staff could be accomplished regionally or locally, with a better response time and greater cost-effectiveness. Rethinking SUNY proposes a 30% cut in central administration over the next two years and points toward some increased oversight functions for Central. We support this effort and expect that even further downsizing will occur. Such suggestions, not surprisingly, are sometimes seen as an affront by Central office; UB's senior officers see these suggestions as means of keeping Central's effort and resources focused on leadership and stewardship, while leaving operations to SUNY's academic units.
R e s o u r c e a l l o c a t i o n i s s u e s : In previous papers and presentations I have noted that, for the first time in SUNY's history, the 1995-96 budget left the system more reliant on revenues than on taxes as support for our direct operating budget. In a system so much more driven by income than ever before, we must radically reform resource allocation in SUNY. At the moment, all tuition dollars are centrally pooled with tax dollars and then allocated back to the campuses according to several complex, somewhat obscure formulas and algorithms. In addition, some $6 million per annum in UB-based fees and other revenues also go into the central SUNY pool. One result of this approach has been that tuitions and some fees and other revenues raised at campuses with significant undergraduate enrollments-particularly the University Centers and Colleges-have been used to offset reduced tax support for SUNY, most especially for the benefit of the lower-enrollment and higher-cost campuses. When the majority of SUNY's resources came from plentiful tax support, the possibility of such an approach to revenue allocation was not a concern. Now, with tuition and other revenues making up over half of SUNY's state appropriation, it is. We are urging the adoption of a new resource allocation methodology for SUNY. We argue that all tuition and other campus-generated revenues should stay at the campuses which generate them. We also argue that state tax dollars should continue to be allocated to the campuses by the Trustees in consonance with approved enrollment levels and Central staff analyses of comparable peer universities, and in consultation with the campuses, elected officials, and other appropriate constituents. These points are all explained in greater detail in a position paper which was reprinted in the October 5 Reporter. We will continue to raise and press these points.
T u i t i o n i s s u e s : As these observations about SUNY's economy indicate, tuition policy and its administration may well be the issue for State University in 1996-97. Since SUNY is now more tuition-dependent than ever, we are urging that the Trustees and campuses have a greater role and broader latitude in developing tuition policy, establishing tuition levels, and managing tuition revenues. One essential point here: the current "one-size-fits-all" approach to tuition, which mandates the same tuition for undergraduates in all baccalaureate programs at the state-operated campuses, is becoming harder and harder to defend. Undergraduate instruction is not the same at all of these campuses. Its ultimate value to the student differs from campus to campus. The type and quality of undergraduate instruction offered also differs from campus to campus, leading to differences in cost of instruction. These facts challenge the policy of charging identical tuition for all baccalaureate programs. At least forty of the fifty states already have tuition structures for undergraduate programs in public higher education that reflect this understanding. In fact, we recognize program differences in other ways throughout SUNY. For example, we already set and allocate the community colleges' and statutory colleges' tuitions differently from the way we set and allocate the state-operated campuses' tuitions, and we already charge different tuitions at the associate's, baccalaureate, and graduate/professional level-for that matter, even between some graduate and graduate professional programs. Only at the state-operated campuses have we held to the notion that tuition for all baccalaureate degrees-from Maritime to Geneseo to UB-should be the same. The Board of Trustees has already indicated its support for a change in this position. The alternative which UB has proposed is a campus-based tuition policy, one which relates to program cost, program mix, and type of institution, as well as to tuitions at similar, competing public institutions. Under such a scheme, the campuses would analyze their markets, needs, and capacities; propose tuition levels to the Board of Trustees; and retain the revenues resulting from the tuitions approved by the Board of Trustees. This approach is a sensible way of maintaining the kind of undergraduate education that students want from UB, rather than letting our programs be devoured by the creeping mediocrity which awaits us if our tuitions continue to be siphoned off to other campuses. We have, in fact, heard two things from students: one, if they put tuition dollars into SUNY, they want those dollars spent where they are paid, on their own campuses; two, they are willing to accept reasonable, predictable tuition increases if program quality is maintained and improved. Rethinking SUNY contains the beginning of a campus-based tuition policy, but again, we think it must go farther if we are to serve our students well. UB will continue to make this case with SUNY Central and to the Legislature.
F i n a n c i a l a i d i s s u e s : Financial aid is an important concern in this budget environment. If, indeed, UB does become a somewhat higher-tuition institution, like similar institutions in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California, then adequate financial aid is an imperative. Proposed cuts and changes to TAP for 1996-97 could lead to higher costs for nearly one-quarter of our students, undergraduate and graduate. Moreover, essentially all of the reduction in support for TAP would fall on students in public higher education, in SUNY and CUNY. In terms of equity and sound policy, we think this is a major error. Fighting for continued TAP assistance at current levels or better will be a priority agenda item for SUNY campuses this year. We will argue that raising tuition, cutting operating support, and reducing TAP will lead ultimately to a lower-quality institution which will be inaccessible to many students, particularly low-income students. Moreover, we will press the point that in a higher tuition environment, both the State and SUNY must dedicate resources to financial aid.
F l e x i b i l i t y / e f f i c i e n c y i s s u e s : Another crucial set of issues in Rethinking SUNY and on the campuses' agenda is greater management flexibility, along with the increased efficiency and expanded revenue opportunities which such flexibility would make possible. For example, we will urge the Legislature to help us cut the regulatory burden that prior approval of contracts, purchases, and other transactions entails; we also are urging the Trustees to simplify SUNY's internal practices for processing and approval. Such steps would take us far in eliminating "paper obstacles." Rethinking SUNY supports changes that would permit campuses to carry forward unexpended funds, thereby encouraging more responsible budget management. The vehicle for this is a consolidated fund, the Academic Quality Fund, within which SUNY could interchange and reallocate funds, regardless of source. For example, additional income that the campuses might generate through private-sector partnerships and lease or sale of services and facilities-given greater freedom to enter into such transactions-would also go into this consolidated fund. (UB, of course, argues that all such locally generated funds must be retained at the campus level.)
F F F It is clear that SUNY must take steps such as those described above; a number of other states already have. Notably, in states like Pennsylvania and California, colleges and universities in highly differentiated multi-campus public systems co-exist nicely, because of and not in spite of a greater ability to manage their own destinies. In many of these issues for public higher education, New York is behind the times.
We are delighted that the Governor, in response to Rethinking SUNY, has submitted legislation that will implement the Academic Quality Fund, permit campus-based tuition policy, and extend much greater management flexibility. We will strongly support these initiatives. None of them need create a "dog-eat-dog" SUNY, with units out to do in other units. We believe that the Board of Trustees can and will continue to carefully monitor and regulate the system, using its authority regarding campus missions and the review and approval of campus-based tuitions; its power over SUNY's facilities and capital budget; its authority to spend SUNY's state tax support wisely; and its power to hold campus leadership accountable for good stewardship.
These, then, are the large-scale, long-term planning and policy issues on which the State University Board of Trustees and SUNY's central office have been focusing, and on which UB's senior officers have been pressing. They have served as a platform for the Trustees' response to the recommendations affecting SUNY in the Governor's 1996-97 Executive Budget. In a follow-up to this paper (to be published by mid-February) we will report on the now short-term-but extremely important-implications of the reductions to SUNY's tax support which are recommended in that Executive Budget. Another upcoming paper, which the Provost and I are now preparing, will report on the planning process which is currently being discussed with the Deans.
As these papers are released, the Provost, Senior Vice President, and I will renew our call for any and all reactions from our university community. The point is not simply that changes are coming. Changes are taking place, here and now, and this is our window of opportunity to shape them. For UB to succeed in the long term, SUNY must establish a new tuition policy, as well as secure and promote greater campus initiative and flexibility-and we must do these things right now. We want our university community and our larger community informed about these issues; we need your public support, and that of UB's friends, in the process of political consideration and debate. Your active involvement, as we work to forge UB's destiny, will be essential.