Here’s how Cuomo’s FY2019 budget proposal would impact UAlbany
STATE CAPITOL – From old to new, several pieces in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spending plan would impact the University at Albany if passed in the final state budget.
Out of a $7.5 billion higher education budget, here are some of the highlights.
Operational funding pad
“Maintenance of Effort,” a policy which would permanently require the state to pick up all maintenance and utilities costs at SUNY and CUNY campuses wasn’t in the governor’s budget plan. However, the executive budget did include $200 million-plus for operational costs.
Cuomo vetoed an MOE bill last month. In a veto message, he reasoned that the cost would be a “fiscal burden” to taxpayers while heavy federal cuts loom over the budget. Funding commitments should be part of budget talks, he said.
Months before the veto, both the UAlbany Student Association, UAlbany Graduate Student Association, and SUNY Student Assembly held an ill-attended rally for the bill on campus.
For the campus, UAlbany Comptroller Kevin Wilcox last month described a lack of MOE as the university’s biggest budget challenge.
All SUNY and CUNY would have a food pantry under Cuomo’s budget plan.
Food insecurity was a subject failed University Council candidate Amanda Demma stood on during in the fall. She advocated for the university to have a food pantry on campus.
UAlbany partners with St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry located near the College of Saint Rose. Food services at the church go to students in the Downtown area.
Among SUNY campuses with an on-campus food pantry in the Capital Region: Hudson Valley Community College and Schenectady County Community College.
In the original plan, the Excelsior Scholarship, a free tuition program for full-time CUNY and SUNY students, would expand income eligibility over time. Household incomes earning up to $110,000 would be eligible in the FY 2019 plan.
By last count, 1,043 student fell under the program at UAlbany. Over 800 students were listed to receive it in September.
James Stellar, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, has theorized that this semester’s transfer student bump was largely a result of the program.
While UAlbany’s student count was up in the fall, enrollment fell one percent across the SUNY-wide despite the Excelsior Scholarship. Some schools, the Democrat & Chronicle found, contribute this to the program’s late introduction.
Student loan package
There are several bullet points in Cuomo’s “comprehensive plan” to ax student debt for those outside of Excelsior boundaries:
- Enact borrower protections against predatory lenders.
- If a student defaults, their professional license would not be suspended. The current UAlbany default rate is 4.6 percent. The national three-year average is 7.4 percent.
- All colleges across the state would annually send out loan estimates, monthly repayment amounts, and detail payoff amount averages with principal and interest. This system would also include the total amount of loans taken on at present.
- There would be a student loan ombudsman at the Department of Financial Services.
Under the DREAM Act, undocumented students attending college in the state are eligible for financial aid.
The bill has floated around the Capitol for roughly half a decade. It often passes in the Assembly and then dies in the Senate. Republican lawmakers have steered away from the bill.
Last year, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told the Times Union: “Our members are very strongly opposed to the DREAM Act. I’m going to put it in plain and simple terms: There’s tons of middle class families in the state of New York who are struggling. I met with college students who are working two and three jobs just to go to community college. So my primary obligation, and I think the position of our members is, let’s make sure we’re taking care of the hard-working middle class taxpayers who are struggling right now.”
It’s based off a bill in congress of the same name which, like state legislation, has failed to win over GOP lawmakers.
In a trip to Washington D.C. earlier this fall, UAlbany President Havidan Rodriguez advocated for the passage of a national DREAM Act. He was joined by SUNY leaders, congressional Democratic lawmakers, and Chancellor Gary May of the University of California, Davis.