By Jessica Bakeman
ALBANY -- State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher urged lawmakers on Monday to provide more money to the public university system than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided in his state budget.
Under Cuomo's budget proposal, which he presented last month, SUNY would get $969 million for its operating budget, flat funding from this year. Community colleges would get a $1 million bump, bringing total state aid to $652 million.
At a legislative budget hearing near the Capitol on Monday, Zimpher requested an additional $19.9 million in state support, arguing that enrollment has grown 9.1 percent over the past five years but state funding has not kept up.
"During the same period, our state support has been reduced or kept level," Zimpher said. "This means that this growth has been funded only by tuition dollars, with no accompanying contribution from the state."
Zimpher said a quarter of the additional funds, if awarded, would be tied to growth in high-demand fields, such as health care, agri-business and information technology.
She also requested additional funding to stabilize the floundering Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.
In Cuomo's budget, he suggested funding SUNY hospitals at the same level as his proposed budget last year, which does not include the $27.8 million and $2 million allocations that the Legislature added.
Zimpher asked not only for a restoration of the $29.8 million but also for an additional $99 million in support for Downstate Medical Center. She said the $99 million request could grow to $150 million as SUNY monitors Downstate's economic situation.
"This one-time funding will allow us to make great strides in restructuring Downstate, and I strongly urge you to consider support for this request," she said. "Without it, the burden will have to fall on the backs of our other campuses."
SUNY recently approved a $75 million credit line for Downstate, but that will only keep the hospital afloat until March, she said.
Zimpher requested $35 million, as well, to stabilize Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.
"We will also be requesting that you consider legislation that will allow the SUNY hospitals increased flexibility so that they can respond more nimbly and responsively to the operational changes that are needed to run a hospital business in these challenging times," she said.
In her testimony, Zimpher also requested an additional $37.3 million for community college operation, $35.7 for capital projects at the community colleges, $5 million to be matched by SUNY for competitive performance grants for SUNY's four year-colleges, and other amounts for various projects.