SUNY advocates bring student issues to the legislature
By Kassie Parisi
Feb 24, 2015
The Student Assembly of the State University of New York system spoke at the recent Legislative Budget Hearing to advocate for student issues including textbook costs, on-campus childcare facilities, and funding for the Educational Opportunity Program.
“It is the mission of the Student Assembly of the State University of New York to empower the students of SUNY, through advocacy, to seek continued access to quality, affordable higher education, to support the goals and initiatives identified by the students of SUNY as paramount to their success,” read the official Student Assembly Transcript.
The annual cost of textbooks for students is more than $1,200, according to the student advocates. According to The Atlantic, textbook prices have risen 812 percent since 1978. Even though there are free or less expensive alternatives to buying full price textbooks, the advocates said that more than 65 percent of students have forgone purchasing a text book due to costs and that these students feel like their grades are suffering as a result.
“This is often a cost that the student bears directly. Not only does this put students at a distinct disadvantage based upon social-economic status, but it threatens to negatively effect completion rates,” noted the transcript that was read by the students at the budget meeting.
The student representatives asked that the assembly pass a bill called the Textbook Affordability Act, which would assemble a taskforce that would explore more efficient ways to lower the cost of textbooks “This includes investigating open access texts, print on demand technologies, digital textbooks, and greater collaboration with faculty, publishers and college bookstores,” said the student advocates.
Another issue looming over some students is the lack of on-campus daycare facilities for students with children. Day care facilities cannot be maintained due to insufficient funding. Students every year are forced to drop out of college to care for their children. The advocates asked the legislature to create a net increase to SUNY childcare funding to help rebuild and maintain the programs.
“Students shouldn’t have to choose between a child and a career,” said University at Albany Student Association Vice President and Director of External Relations on the Student Assembly Marc Cohen.
The advocates also discussed creating more funding for Educational Opportunity Programs. The EOP program provides college access to students who have financial or academic issues and would not be able to otherwise receive a higher education.
“EOP is something that all SUNY students can be proud of. It speaks to our strong belief in equality and inclusion and our firm conviction that everyone who is willing to work hard, regardless of economic status, should be able to receive a degree,” said Cohen.
There were 9,359 students enrolled in the EOP program at UAlbany by the end of last year, said the advocates. If the EOP budget cuts proposed by the legislature come to fruition, there will be some EOP students who will be unable to complete their education, according to the transcript. The student advocates asked that the legislature restore the $1.3 million that was cut from this program.
The advocates noted that they were not asking for handouts from the legislators. Rather, they were bringing up issues that, if solved, could make college life for the typical SUNY student easier and more affordable.
“Every semester, we too have a list of tough choices to make. Should we buy that textbook, or hold off and see if the library has a copy? Can we get by without that calculator for one more week? Should we really add another $10,000 of debt to our plate?” they said.
Cohen noted that many students don’t necessarily pay attention to issues that don’t directly affect them on a day-to-day basis. For example UAlbany students were upset when Wholly Habaneros stopped serving chipotle mayonnaise, until it was subsequently returned to plates after negotiations. Cohen said that it is the responsibility of the student representatives such as himself to advocate for the larger scale issues.
“The purpose of SUNY is to be affordable and accessible,” said Cohen.