Education funding budget hearing held

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The state higher education budget is the first hearing to be held in the next month-long budget hearings before the final budget is due in April.

On Tuesday, legislators looked at how the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal will impact many of the services and programs at SUNY schools and the success of the Excelsior Program.

“We would like to get back to what we had last year,” Kristina Johnson, Chancellor of SUNY, said.

With the state facing a deficit, the education department is one of many seeing a shortfall of money coming its way in the Governor’s budget proposal.

Johnson has asked for $550 million to invest in infrastructure, but the Executive Budget only allows for $350 million. However, there is a backlog of $4 billion of work needing to be done.

“We have an aging infrastructure, 35 percent of SUNY’s academic facilities at State-operated campuses are more than 50 years old.”

The Excelsior Scholarship will also be increasing next year to include families who make $110,000 or less. With it comes the stipulation that students stay in New York for however many years they receive the scholarship.  One question Senator Jim Tedisco asked, is how many students stay in New York as it is?

“After four years of graduating from a SUNY system, 73 percent of our students or graduates are still living and working in the state of New York,” Johnson said.

Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-North Syracuse) says a big priority for him and many of his colleagues moving forward is to see how the Excelsior Scholarship is affecting private schools.

“We’ve created a pretty good pipeline already in Upstate New York and in Central New York. In particular, there’s a lot of collaboration among public and private colleges so I want to make sure that’s not going to be harmed in any way,” Assemblyman Stirpe said.

In the Governor’s budget proposal, he had also outlined passing the DREAM Act which would allow undocumented students to attend a SUNY or CUNY school and for food pantries to be on all campuses.

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