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Officials outline Advocacy Day plans

State aid, higher ed reform to be discussed

By Damore Ramwa
On February 3, 2010

The University at Albany previewed its plans Wednesday for 2010 UAlbany Advocacy Day, which is set to take place this Monday.
Advocacy Day, an event meant to highlight the university to legislators and the public, will take place in downtown Albany at Empire State Plaza.
A major issue that will be addressed at the event is the "erosion of state aid," said Vincent Delio, UAlbany chief of staff.
The amount of state aid given to the university has not changed much over the past twenty years.
The current amount of state aid for the university is both outdated and insufficient, According to data compiled by UAlbany President George Philip's office. State aid in 1989 was $78.8 million, and today it's $79 million. This amount is insufficient to cope with inflation and a series of salary increases over the past twenty years, Delio said.
"Essentially, if you take those 1989 dollars and equate them to 2009 dollars, you would have $130 million," Delio said.
"We're $50 million in the hole to start with," Phillip said. "In 1989 about 43 percent of our operating budget came from state assistance. Today, under 16 percent of our operating budget comes from state assistance."
Tuition increases add to financial burdens for families. Last spring, SUNY tuition increased by $620 annually.
"[Tuition hikes] have been in lieu of state aid," Phillip said. "So you get tuition but you don't get state assistance, so in effect, it's a regressive tax against our students."
Historically, tuition hikes have been "coupled" with a decline in state aid, in hopes to remedy the state's budget gap, Delio said.
"They have only increased tuition, the legislature that is, when there has been a budget crisis, a budget gap, a budget deficit," Delio said.
Another hot-button issue that will be addressed at the event is Gov. David Paterson's proposal to give SUNY and CUNY institutions more freedom in regards to tuition and land-use decisions.
Paterson's proposed Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act allows individual SUNY schools to set their own tuition rates and permits them to set differential rates depending on degree programs to cover their true costs.
The plan would generate new revenue, allow for the hiring of new faculty and researchers, increase student enrollment, invest in large construction projects and serve as an engine for future economic growth and job creation, according to the governor's office.The university predicts that more than 550 permanent jobs would be created and more than 2,000 new students would be enrolled, bringing the total to approximately 20,000. In addition, the school estimates the plan would create more than $140 million in new research funding and $15 million in local spending.
Phillip said if the proposal is approved, professional schools would likely be subject to higher tuition than other programs. The School of Public Health and the School of Business are two professional schools offered at the university.
According to university officials, the day's program will include advocacy visits, showcases, a rally and reception.
Advocacy visits, which will be done by students, staff, alumni and university supporters, will be conducted by six teams that will visit 30 offices in the Capitol, 25 members of the legislature and five fiscal committee staff offices. Also, some students will get an opportunity to follow a legislator as part of the program "legislator for a day."
Showcase Day, the portion of the day meant to highlight UAlbany, is designed to highlight the strengths and successes of the university, Delio said. That will start at 11 a.m. in the Northern Concourse of the Empire State Plaza.
Live entertainment will be provided by the student musical groups the Earth Tones, Serendipity and the UAlbany Chamber Singers.
"It's an opportunity for us to showcase our successes and our strengths across the campus, and there are many," Delio said.
The rally and reception will be attended by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany, and Assembly Majority Leader Ronald Canestrari, D-Cohoes. It starts at 5 p.m. at the Liberty Café.
Students are asked by the President's Office to come out to the Capitol for 2010 UAlbany Day on Feb. 8 to show support. More than 600 students and faculty attended last year's UAlbany Day.


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