UB community members voice concerns to state legislators
Students, faculty ask for more funding, support for SUNY transparency bill
United University Professions held a public hearing with state legislators and the chair of the higher education committee to discuss accessibility and college tuition Wednesday.
Roughly 40 people attended the event where New York State Senator Timothy Kennedy, Assemblymember Karen McMahon and Chair of the Higher Education Senate Committee Toby Ann Stavisky listened to SUNY administrators’ and students’ concerns. Stavisky said the hearing was more “community-based” than legislative and is the third in a series of hearings they are holding across the state featuring members of the higher education union.
Beth Del Genio, UB President Satish Tripathi’s chief of staff, advocated for the state’s five-year capital program, which ensures SUNY facilities receive enough funding to meet their maintenance needs and advocated for an increase in funding for UB’s master plans. Student Association President Yousouf Amolegbe and SA Vice President Georgia Hulbert asked legislators for the Excelsior Scholarship to cover more tuition and to give Disability Services more funding. Philip Glick, chapter president for health sciences and former faculty senate chair, said budgets have been “flat” for six years and the TAP gap –– the difference between TAP funding and annual tuition –– is now at $70 million and rising.
Glick asked legislators to support the campus foundation transparency bill, which would require the UB Foundation and other SUNY and CUNY foundations to submit annual reports and be “completely transparent” with their budgets.
Stavisky said foundations have “gotten better” with transparency but are “nowhere near where they should be.”
Glick said he had “several conversations” about transparency with UBF’s chair.
“He told me UBF is sufficiently transparent, hung up the phone and refused to meet with me again,” Glick said.
Gaelle Jean-Baptiste, Buffalo State College’s United Students Government president, said she sees students’ financial struggles and has noticed students leaving the school because they can’t afford tuition. As a Buffalo State student, Jean-Baptiste works four jobs and is “living from check to check” hoping the Excelsior Scholarship will cover increased tuition. And Jean-Baptiste said she isn’t the only one.
“We are in need [of] adequate funding for all of our institutions because funds are constantly being moved to things that don’t necessarily benefit us as students,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Del Genio asked legislators for more capital funding for the master plans because UB wants a new building for the SEAS department, which has seen a 62% increase in undergraduates and 55% increase in graduates over the past seven years, according to Del Genio.
Del Genio said they need the current five-year capital plan to “support critical maintenance for physical infrastructure,” and “build new academic buildings in high demand areas.”
Glick said UB needs support for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which is in debt. He is asking for “construction bond forgiveness,” because JSBMS pays $1 million a month, which equates to $12 million a year for the next 28 years. Glick said this is “severely impairing” plans at the medical center, which is the “backbone of healthcare in WNY.”
“It’s very important we don’t take a flat budget again, because then we put the operating costs of universities on the back of student tuition and fees or we cut programs,” Glick said. “That’s what’s been going on around here for the past four to five years.”
Amolegbe asked the state to invest more money into SUNY programs, including those for mental health, EOP, food pantries and academic advisement to make tuition “more affordable.” He said the tuition-assistance program isn’t funded by the state which “severely diminished” schools’ ability to provide a quality education.
“With an increase in funding and the expansion of programs, campuses across the state will be equipped to provide greater quality education and student services that address the backgrounds and needs of our students,” Amolegbe said.
*Alexandra Moyen contributed reporting to this article
Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrittanyGorny.