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Costs of the SUNY 2020 Plan

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By Jonathan Peters

3/1/16

The University at Albany was among three other SUNY schools in 2011 to evenly split $140 million given to them by the New York state Governor’s Office as a challenge. According to the SUNY website, the schools were told to use the money “to support capital projects in their region.” This was only round one of the five-year test to see if the governor can provide economic growth to a region through the funding of New York State schools.

Thus NYSUNY 2020 began.

But has UAlbany passed the performance-based funding test to earn a renewal of the program in the eyes of Gov. Andrew Cuomo? Of course he would have to look at our school’s greatest accomplishments this year to be able to decide that.

UAlbany Pres. Robert J. Jones released the “2015-2016 New York State Enacted Budget” on the university’s website detailing overall expenses on a few things our school takes pride in.

Construction of the NYSTAR Center of Excellence received $250,000 in funding. Upon completion of the center, it will become one of the largest concentrations of environmental and atmospheric researchers in the country. The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, where students can visit for support and receive graduate and undergraduate training, received $1.7 million. The College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cyber Security got $15 million. The creation of these majors is a movement to introduce new employment opportunities to students. And $1.02 billion was awarded to UAlbany students through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

If the school receives the projected $55 million, which will be a $20 million increase from what was received in 2011, it plans to enact programs to provide economic growth to the Capital Region. But how exactly will those millions of dollars affect UAlbany students?

Based on the way the school has spent last year’s money, the best majors to get into right now are cyber security and atmospheric science. Business and law are also good choices now that the Albany Law School is open to UAlbany students for classes as of last year. Perhaps in the future, if the program is renewed, we could see money being used for other departments.

Over the next few years, the school could become better-rounded out with proper funding in the fine arts, computer science, medical, and journalism departments, just to name a few.

Besides providing more money to renovate the plants that surround the fountain again, NYSUNY 2020 will also have a large impact on our tuition. In fact, according to UAlbany’s grant proposal in 2012, one of the primary functions of NYSUNY 2020 is to increase tuition by a set amount for every round of the program.

The proposal promises that “[UAlbany’s] revenue is estimated to increase by $300 per year for in-state undergraduate students.” Graduate and out-of-state students will have their tuition increased by a percentage approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees. This was the only source of revenue listed to cover spending on faculty, researchers, supporting staff, financial aid, and operational costs of new programs.

The problem for students is that if the challenge is restored under the same model, a student that is currently a freshman can expect to pay at least $7,670 in their senior year for tuition. That does not include fees, room and board, or meal plans.

That student would also have had to move off campus by junior year to accommodate the wave of incoming students UAlbany expects for 2017-2018, as detailed in the proposal. To avoid that headache, they could apply to be a residential assistant.

The name of the game here is change.

This challenge will make UAlbany feel completely different three to four years from now. There may be new buildings around campus, more subjects to major in, appropriately funded departments, and perhaps a Starbucks on campus.

But of course the spending of the $55 million is up to Jones and the financial officers in the Board of Trustees. I hope they decide to use a portion of it for something that the collective student body can take pride in rather than something that a set group of professors will take pride in and present at the next board meeting for more money.

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