The State University of New York was one of the budget’s big winners. Not only were higher education advocates able to fend off the governor’s proposed annual tuition hikes for in-state students, they successfully pushed for millions more in operating aid, as well as a boost for SUNY’s public teaching hospitals.  

Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions (UUP), the union that represents SUNY professional and academic staff, told Capital Tonight he is very pleased.

“We saw an increase overall of $160 million in operating aid, exactly what we were saying was necessary to get SUNY campuses that are in financial distress out of the situation that they’re facing,” he said. “So, this was an important first step in overcoming 15 years of underfunding under the Cuomo administration.”

SUNY will get $1.38 billion in operating aid. The university system will also see another $3 billion for capital funding.

In her executive budget, Gov. Kathy Hochul had proposed a series of annual tuitions hikes at SUNY and CUNY colleges over five years. The hike would have been indexed to the higher education price index or 3%, whichever was lower. The increase would have been 6% at SUNY’s large university center campuses.

While those increases were left out of the state budget, out-of-state students will see a tuition increase – something Kowal doesn’t think will have an impact on enrollment at SUNY. 

“What we’ve seen is, those campuses that are on the border of our state but primarily university centers and the College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, they have an overwhelming applicant pool of people from out of state who want to come to SUNY,” Kowal said.

Kowal is hopeful that the extra aid in SUNY’s operating budget will be steered toward campuses that really need it. 

“It is imperative that we work with the chancellor to ensure that those resources go to the campuses where they are needed,” he said. “University Centers are doing extremely well in this budget and that’s a good thing. But at the same time, those campuses that have struggled especially during COVID, they need the resources to get out of the red and be competitive.”