Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today joined a student-led rally on the campus of Stony Brook University to protest the scheme to use SUNY tuition increases to balance the state’s budget. The rally, which was organized by Adal D. Regis, was the students’ way of voicing their opposition to the state’s diversion of revenue raised by a recent tuition increase.
The students joined together outside the Student Activities Center to peacefully protest a $68.5 million raid, which was approved by the Democratically controlled Senate and Assembly after meeting behind closed doors with Governor David Paterson, that will take tuition money out of the classroom and use it to cover other state programs and departments.
As part of the recently approved Deficit Reduction Proposal, the plan will siphon off a majority of the $310 spring semester tuition increase to fund other state expenses.
Under the scheme, SUNY would only be allowed to retain $7.6 million or 10 percent of the tuition increase, while 90 percent or $68.5 million would be used to offset General Fund expenses. Instead of using this increase to offset harmful budget cuts proposed by the Governor and to build a stronger foundation for SUNY students, the Governor and Senate Democrats are stealing these funds to pay for expenses unrelated to higher education.
When coupled with the prospect of having state support cut by $146 million under the Governor’s proposed budget, this recent action to raid SUNY tuition will force campuses to further reduce services to students, limit enrollment for incoming students, increase class sizes, reduce course sections critical to the completion of a student’s degree, and even reduce faculty and other support staff.
Unfortunately, the students will face another $310 increase in the fall of 2009, hiking the annual tuition rate to $4,970.
“The Deficit Reduction Proposal mandates that 90 percent of that increase or $68.5 million goes to the general fund, and leaves state universities with only 10 percent or $7.6 million,” said Adal D. Regis, head coordinator of the rally. “As a college student who values the quality of his institution, I believe that it is utterly unfair for Governor Paterson to even consider this as a main resort to close the $1.6 billion budget gap, while the Bundy Aid, which takes money from the state universities to fund private institutions, is still in effect. State college students are basically being taxed and are paying more money for less quality service.”
“Using students tuition to solve our state’s economic problems is like taxing them for the privilege to attend college to fix a problem they did not create. It is the wrong approach and it should be changed,” stated Senator Flanagan. “Any increase in tuition should be used to increase services and to make it easier for our students to further their education. These students are our future - they are not our state’s ATM machine and they deserve better. That is why I am joining these students in calling on the Governor and the leaders of the Assembly and the Senate to fix this problem now.”