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Think Flexibility

Underinvestment in SUNY is a major issue, as the 2007 New York State Commission on Higher Education noted. A longtime erosion of resources has led to a loss of full-time faculty and higher student-faculty ratios. It also threatens to diminish academic and student support services. To reverse this decline, Binghamton University and SUNY are seeking a commitment to adequate state support as well as a new level of flexibility and autonomy.

The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, recently announced by Governor David A. Paterson, will allow SUNY to expand and innovate and Binghamton University to fulfill the promise of our Think Green. Think Global. Think Binghamton plan. The Act seeks:

  • Spending and contracting flexibility to better serve students, faculty, researchers and staff in a timely manner. What do you mean?
  • Access to capital to enable the University to build the infrastructure necessary to support the state’s economic development mission. What would change?
  • The ability to lease or purchase land and facilities. How would this help?
  • Additional flexibility in setting tuition, using a rational tuition policy as recommended by the New York State Commission on Higher Education, as well as the ability to retain revenue generated by tuition. Why is this necessary?

The economic impact this legislation would have on New York state over the next decade is significant. SUNY estimates that over the next ten years its campuses will be able to help create over 10,000 new jobs and invest over $8.5 billion in new capital construction which will support over 43,700 direct and 21,800 indirect construction jobs.

What do you mean?
The New York State Commission on Higher Education recommended that SUNY be able to enter into contracts and make procurements without pre-approval for goods, services and construction. Most public university systems are subject only to post-auditing of expenditures, while SUNY is now subject to both pre- and post-audit. The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act would maintain a post-audit process and remove the current cumbersome pre-approval process, which delays projects and increases costs.

What would change?
The SUNY Construction Fund is now subject to even more restrictive purchasing and financial regulation than SUNY itself. The fund needs flexibility to fulfill its mission, including the maintenance of a post-audit process and the end of the current pre-approval process for leases, contracts and permits. The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act would put the Construction Fund on the same footing as the Dormitory Authority, allowing SUNY construction projects to be managed much more efficiently. The result would be more on time projects and less cost overruns.

How would this help?
Current regulation impedes SUNY’s ability to enter into public-private partnerships to facilitate construction of research, housing, health care or other facilities. It also precludes SUNY from making real property available as security for industrial development agencies or private financing of such facilities. More flexibility on this point would permit Binghamton University to take on creative and entrepreneurial projects or leverage capital and know-how to create partnerships that benefit the campus and the local economy.

Why is this necessary?
Most of the outstanding public research institutions in the country are able to set tuition levels that take into account their missions, expenses and needs. Differential tuition, in which a higher price is charged for certain majors or by certain campuses, helps to align price with cost and ensure stable and predictable funding to support quality. This tuition policy would also acknowledge that certain types of instruction are more expensive than others. It would also allow Binghamton to respond more quickly to statewide demand for particular types of workers. Importantly, supplemental financial aid would ensure the neediest students remain unaffected. Changes in tuition should be predictable and modest and be used for investments in quality, rather than as a basis for reduced public support.

Help us make this legislation a reality. 

Join the Think Tank advocacy group or e-mail us at think@binghamton.edu.

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Last Updated: 8/6/10