Monthly Column: 2012 Legislative Session makes investments in local colleges, students

 

By Michael H. Ranzenhofer


As I mentioned in my July column, the 2012 Legislative Session has New York continuing to move in a more positive direction.  Just as important though are the actions taken during this year’s session to move our higher education institutions in a more positive direction as well, particularly the University at Buffalo, Erie Community College and Daemen College.


Building upon the passage of NY2020, the Western New York Delegation has been able to include a provision in the State Budget to create a second Center of Excellence (COE) for the University at Buffalo.  It is important to note that UB will be the only university within the SUNY system to have two centers.  UB’s COE in Materials and Informatics will further its leadership in a critical, emerging field.  The COE will serve as a competitive advantage for our community and graduates by connecting cutting-edge skills with local industries.


In addition to my support for UB, I am proud to have been able to secure capital funding for Erie Community College.  While ECC is one of our community’s finest institutions, there has been limited capital investment at ECC’s North Campus.  As a result, many students are leaving the area to attend neighboring community colleges, forcing county taxpayers to make payments to other municipalities.


Despite tremendous pressure from other regions of the State, I was successful in securing $15 million for a new academic building for ECC’s North Campus thru the 2012 New York State Community College Capital Program.  While the project’s entire cost is estimated to be around $30 million, this critical State funding will match $7.5 million in college fundraising efforts and $7.5 million in support from Erie County.  Most importantly, this funding will be a key element in attracting more students to stay local and expanding academic opportunities at ECC’s North Campus.  I am looking forward to working with college and local government officials to ensure that this project moves ahead. 


Lastly, I am pleased to report that – after months of meetings and working with leaders at Daemen College – a bill which I introduced in the State Senate to permit faculty to establish programs to provide clinical settings for physical therapy students has been signed into law by the Governor. This law will give physical therapy students the same clinical opportunities as students who are studying to become medical doctors or dentists, while giving residents another opportunity to receive more affordable, quality health care. 


It has been a pleasure to work and advocate for each of these initiatives that will enhance the quality of education for students, and I will continue to work to ensure that our higher education institutions have all the resources they need to compete in the 21st century global economy.


Senator Ranzenhofer's Monthly Column appeared in the Amherst, Clarence and Ken-Ton Bees on August 15.