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State cuts, funding issues take center stage at Town Hall meeting

President Lois DeFleur
While student concerns aired at a Monday Town Hall meet-ing sponsored by the Student Association ranged from concerns about parking on campus to a desire for more student input in the University decision-making process, financial concerns dominated the question and answer session with President Lois B. DeFleur.

The president was the first to raise the issue, saying that she was very concerned with the 2005-06 state budget, which could include a 15 percent reduction in funding for the University if the exec-utive budget proposal is approved. Such a deficit could lead to cuts in faculty positions, she said. The governor’s proposal would also cut funding for the Equal Opportunity Program.

“We need to make it very clear that SUNY needs to be made whole,” DeFleur said. “If the proposed cuts are able to stand, it would be devastating. We’re advocating strongly not to have those cuts enacted.”

The proposal would also change the way Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding is distributed, providing students with half the funding when they start at the University and the remaining half after they complete their degrees. This plan would disadvantage students with financial need, she said. “We really need to advocate for the Tuition Assistance Program to remain intact,” she said.

While University officials are working with a number of constituency groups to advocate improved funding, DeFleur encouraged students to contact legis-lators in their home districts as well as the legislature’s leadership to express their wishes concerning funding for the SUNY system and student financial aid.

About 100 students attended the meeting in the University Union. In response to a question about funding for academic needs versus funding for facilities, DeFleur explained that funding is a complicated issue. Academics are of the highest priority, and the president has initiated a $3 million faculty hiring initiative over the next three years.

However, there are different funding streams for facilities that cannot be used for academic needs. For projects such as the Events Center, residence halls or the proposed improvements to the East Gym, the legislature issues bonds specifically designed to enable the funding of building projects, DeFleur said. Universities utilizing that money, secured by bonds, then pledge to use the revenue generated by the facility to repay the bonds. For renovation of the East Gym into a campus recreation center, the proposed increase in the student recreation fees would be the revenue source for repayment. Those funds are not available for other uses, said DeFleur.

DeFleur said she pursues such funding for projects to benefit the campus and students. “If (the funding) isn’t used here,” she said, “it will be used at another campus.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08