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SUNY wins $140 million for economic growth plans

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SUNY is getting a set of perks for its four big campuses, in exchange for economic development plans.

Yesterday was a good day for the SUNY system, which learned that several key components of its "SUNY empowerment" agenda were getting the governor's stamp of approval.  Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the new "NYSUNY2020" program with SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher.  Included among the proposals:

  • Steady tuition increases over the next five year, allowing parents and students to budget better.  SUNY calls this "rational tuition."
  • Tuition autonomy to allow the big four campuses - Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook - to set higher rates (if the legislature gives its stamp of approval).
  • $20 million from Empire State Development (ESD) for each of the big four to assist with regional economic development plans.
  • A push from the governor for the legislature to act on UB 2020 in the current session.

At State of Politics, Liz Benjamin has the criteria that schools will need to fulfill in order to have their grants for the funds accepted:

- Ways the school will bring the local community and stakeholders together through the Regional Economic Development Councils to spur local economic development and contribute to regional revitalization. - Strategic partnerships, such as public/private partnerships, to increase academic and economic benefits. - Endorsements from surrounding local governments in support of the plan. - Funding mechanisms, such as capital financing, tuition increases and private sector financing. - Details for expansion, including faculty to be hired, property to be purchased and for what purpose.

The grant money is part of the governor's regional economic council pot of funding.  Thomas Kaplan reports at the New York Times that the governor is stepping into contentious territory:

The governor’s announcement came as he unveiled one of his administration’s first major economic development programs, $140 million in grants for the SUNY research campuses for expansion, part of which, he said, would probably be paid for by the higher tuitions. By throwing his weight behind the tuition proposals, Mr. Cuomo is thrusting himself into one of Albany’s longest-running and most contentious policy disputes. For years, SUNY’s research universities have sought to set their own tuitions and to vary tuition by campus. Currently, the systemwide tuition rate is set by the Legislature. Mr. Cuomo’s predecessor, Gov. David A. Paterson, supported a “differential tuition” plan last year, but it failed to win legislative approval.

The bad news, according to Tom Precious at the Buffalo News, comes mostly for the University at Buffalo.  UB had been advocating for its own economic development package, called UB2020, which included a $5 billion investment from the state.  That looks like it's off the table now, with the governor telling reporters that "five billion is like all the money in the world," and saying that the new proposal is a "real, doable plan."

Here's reaction from around the SUNY system:

University at Buffalo (via Tom Precious at the Buffalo News):

[UB president Satish] Tripathi declined an interview request, but in a statement said that UB "looks forward to responding to this new initiative, guided by our strategic academic vision." "We will continue to work with New York's leaders to secure the resources to help UB fulfill its vast potential and serve as a catalyst for a brighter future for Western New York," he said. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who joined Cuomo in unveiling the new plan, said Tripathi is "very satisfied" with the latest effort. "He's got his fingerprints all over phase one of this plan," she said.

Binghamton University (via Cara Matthews at Gannett)

SUNY Binghamton President Peter Magrath said he was "elated" about Monday's announcement. Binghamton University is an economic-engine driver for the Southern Tier, and the same is true of the regions where the other university centers are located, he said. Magrath said the university already has plans for what direction it wants to go in, "so it's not like we're going to have to put on our thinking caps," and is ready to move.

SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimper (via Joseph Spector at Vote Up!):

“Governor Cuomo’s vision of reopening New York to business fits perfectly with SUNY’s ability to be an economic driver for our state - a ready-made asset for New York’s recovery.”

Syracuse University bails on AAU

Syracuse University is junking its affiliation with the American Association of Universities (AAU), a confederation of 62 research universities.  Glenn Coin reports at the Post-Standard that the move is preemptive, so that SU doesn't get booted from the group:

The AAU voted out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln earlier this month, because it did not meet the criteria. In an email Monday to faculty, SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor said new membership criteria gave more weight to universities with medical complexes and large science and engineering departments. SU’s “undisputed pre-eminence,” she said, lies in areas such as architecture, public affairs and information studies. SU has nearly doubled its total research funding in the past decade, Cantor said. The largest increases have come from state and local governments, and private foundations.


And this doesn't have anything to do with anything, but congratulations to the Rochester Institute of Technology which bested the University of Alberta's record for "world's largest dodgeball game."  Jon Hand at the Democrat and Chronicle reports that more than 2,100 people showed up to hurl balls at each other and set a new Guinness Book record. 

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