Education unions in New York on Tuesday called for $4.7 billion in spending for higher education programs in the state ahead of a potential tuition increase at public colleges and universities. 

The unions, including the New York State United Teachers, United University Professions, Professional Staff Congress and the United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology, pushed for the funding as lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul negotiate a $227 billion budget proposal. 

“New York state must reaffirm public higher education’s role in our society by standing up for a just, inclusive and well-funded public higher education system,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “We can’t fall into the trap of shifting the increasing costs of public higher education onto the backs of our students.” 

SUNY union leaders in particular have been concerned about funding for university hospitals in the state as well as financial problems raised in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We fully support Governor Hochul’s call for reimagining SUNY as the preeminent institution of higher education in the country,” said Frederick E. Kowal, UUP president. “While we appreciate the funding for SUNY in the Executive Budget, we remain gravely concerned about the untenable financial situation at too many of our campuses, and our three public teaching hospitals. More direct state aid is necessary to eradicate deep-seated financial problems at 19 state-operated campuses, which are facing projected or structural multimillion-dollar deficits. We look forward to partnering with the governor and the Legislature to provide adequate funding necessary to stabilize these campuses and our hospitals.”

The budget is expected to pass by April 1, the start of New York's fiscal year.