Cuomo Announces Funding Competition for SUNY Schools

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced grants for the four State University Centers in New York. The schools will compete for a total of $140 million dollars for what Cuomo says will be “seed money” for plans to expand the centers and create jobs.

Governor Cuomo had planned on holding a summit to discuss the needs for the State University at Buffalo, which has been seeking a capital improvement and economic development plan known as UB2020. But now, the governor says, he wants to instead offer a competitive grant program to all four State University Centers in Buffalo as well as Albany, Binghamton, and Stony Brook on Long Island. The new plan will be called SUNY 2020.

Cuomo says there will be a total of $140 million dollars in “seed money,” up to $35 million dollars per school. He says he’ll be judging the plans on whether they offer partnerships with the private sector and how many jobs they plan to create.

“This can’t just be ‘if you build it they will come’,” said Cuomo.“These have to be hard plans, real plans that meet the criteria.”

Cuomo says he’d rather that the four separate schools design their own plans so that they are a better fit for their particular region of the state.

The University at Buffalo already has a plan ready and has been seeking approval from the legislature for years. Cuomo says he’ll give the rest of the schools until the end of the year a chance to catch up and present competing plans.

The governor says leaders at the other three university centers were just hearing of his new idea at the announcement, and he is still deciding whether to hold the UB2020 summit, but include the other schools as well.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher says she wholeheartedly approves of the governor’s plan.

“We will create jobs through this activity,” Zimpher said.

The UB 2020 plan has languished in the legislature as supporters struggled to win enough votes to approve the plan. In 2010, the state budget was held up for several weeks when Buffalo area Senators demanded that UB2020 be passed. The Senate finally approved UB2020 in March of this year, but it has not advanced beyond committee level in the Assembly.

In recent weeks, lawmakers who represent the regions where the other four university centers are located have groused that their SUNY centers also need economic development money and plans.

Cuomo’s plan by passes the legislature almost entirely. The funding comes from the SUNY capital plan, and from the governor’s economic development authority.

The University Centers would need approval from the legislature, however, if their proposal calls for an increase in tuition to partially finance the expansions.

Cuomo, who is a supporter of measured tuition increases at all SUNY schools to keep pace with inflation, predicted that the other university centers will eventually be seeking tuition hikes as part of their plans, as well.

“My guess is all four will have a tuition increase component,” Cuomo said.

The UB 2020 plan had included a tuition increase of up to $375 dollars per semester.