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Landmark Reform Package Promises to Transform University at Albany and Public Higher Education Throughout New York

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

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The plan will provide a blueprint for UAlbany to take control of its future, foster new research and discovery, and serve as an engine for future economic growth. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 15, 2010) -- Today, Governor David A. Paterson announced groundbreaking public higher education legislation that promises to transform the University at Albany and all of public higher education in New York State, and in so doing, further drive the knowledge-based, innovation economy throughout the Capital Region and State of New York. 

As part of the 2010 Executive Budget, the "Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act" will provide a blueprint for the University at Albany to take control of its future, generate new revenue, hire new faculty and researchers, foster new research and discovery, and serve as an engine for future economic growth and job creation.

This landmark, sweeping reform package would afford the University at Albany tuition flexibility, procurement and operational efficiencies, land-use authority, public–private partnership flexibility, and more. Specifically, the “Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act” would:

• Move tuition outside the state budget process, allowing SUNY and CUNY to receive and disburse revenues from tuition and self-supporting program activities without an appropriation.

• Authorize the Boards of Trustees for SUNY and CUNY to implement a responsible and rational incremental tuition policy that will provide the universities with the discretion to raise tuition up to an annual cap of two-and-one-half times the five-year rolling average of the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), making it easier for students and families to anticipate and plan for the true cost of attendance over the course of a degree program.

• Authorize the SUNY and CUNY trustees to implement differential tuition rates for programs and campuses within their systems, based on the recommendation of the college president and in accordance with specific guidelines promulgated by the trustees.

• Authorize the lease of real property under the jurisdiction of SUNY to other entities in support of its educational purpose, and the participation in public/private partnerships that will benefit SUNY's mission, subject to approval of a newly created State University Asset Maximization Review Board.

• Remove provisions of law subjecting SUNY and CUNY to pre-approval of contracts by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) in order to streamline the procurement of goods and services, while maintaining provisions requiring the post-audit of such contracts by OSC.

• Allow post-audit in lieu of pre-audit requirements for attorney general approval of leases between SUNY and its alumni associations in support of dormitory projects.

• Prescribe specific semi-annual reporting requirements on revenues and expenditures at a campus-specific level to ensure continued transparency and accountability.

Governor Paterson underscored that “We must provide our institutions of public higher education with the freedom and flexibility they need to drive development both on campus and off, preparing our students for the New Economy jobs that will propel New York forward.”  Currently, SUNY has an "over-burdensome system of overregulation threatening the ability of our public higher education system to successfully adapt to changing educational and fiscal circumstances.”

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, “I commend Governor Paterson for his leadership in bringing forward the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. This legislation harnesses high-impact, zero-cost solutions that will create jobs, build the foundation for tomorrow’s economy and strengthen public higher education – while saving millions of taxpayer dollars.

“With the unprecedented cooperation and energetic partnership of SUNY and CUNY, we have taken a major step in unleashing the public university sector to achieve the promise of economic growth through top quality education, from community college to research center. This will positively impact every community in the state with the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs and through billions of dollars in local investment.”

University at Albany President George M. Philip said, "Governor Paterson is offering a new model for public higher education that will allow the University at Albany and other SUNY campuses to achieve their highest potential. His proposal will enable us to foster new opportunities for students, faculty and researchers across the University. It will further strengthen our ability to harness the power of our research and scholarship, and contribute immeasurably to the state’s economic recovery. We are confident this plan will provide meaningful benefits for UAlbany, the greater Capital region and the State of New York."

"The governor's legislation is very important for the City of Albany. This reform package will free the University at Albany and SUNY from being among the most overburdened and overregulated institutions of higher education in the nation. In turn, this initiative will lead to the creation of new jobs and vital economic development  for our All America City of Albany," said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings.

“Governor Paterson clearly recognizes the great importance of the University at Albany and other SUNY institutions to the growth and vitality of our communities,” said the University at Albany Foundation President George Hearst. “His proposal is great news for all who want to assure the highest-quality public higher education in New York State and economically vibrant communities.”

University at Albany Council Member Daniel Tomson was quoted, “Excellence requires investment, and Governor Paterson’s proposed reforms offer a plan to assure needed resources for delivering the highest-quality academic programs to our students. His plan would also further strengthen UAlbany’s role as an economic catalyst in the local and global economy.”

Michael Tucker, President of the Center for Economic Growth, said, “We commend Governor Paterson for his plan to enrich the role of the University at Albany and the entire State University of New York by unleashing the power of public higher education to educate students, advance new research, create new jobs and spur our State’s economy.  By providing public higher education with the autonomy it needs to operate like a business, SUNY will be able to create an environment conducive for new knowledge and innovation; both critical components to our success in the 21st century.”

“Governor Paterson’s reforms would offer UAlbany and other SUNY campuses new flexibility and enhance their ability to be entrepreneurial, both important qualities in responding to the challenges of our global economy. This will benefit students, our region and state. It will help power our innovation economy," said Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Eagan.

Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce President Linda Hillman said, "I want to congratulate Governor Paterson for advancing the ‘Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.’ This pioneering legislation will enable the University at Albany to significantly enhance its academic and research mission as well as the regional and state economy.”

"The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County applauds Governor Paterson for his insightful and landmark legislation that will allow our state's universities to be better positioned to grow, utilize cost efficiencies and ultimately become valuable engines of economic development," said Peter Aust, President of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County. "With this legislation, the University at Albany can now become the leading example of educational excellence in Tech Valley."

"The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act translates to job creation," said Chuck Steiner, President of the Chamber of Schenectady County. "The end products of our state universities: research development, new discoveries, advancement of intellectual properties ultimately lead to spin-off companies being started within our state. Subsequently, New York State residents benefit from increased opportunities for employment and a strengthened tax base."

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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 58 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit www.albany.edu. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.

Ben Spear '10
UAlbany Students

"The Honors College has been a great experience because of the ability to get together with a small group of people with a common goal of success."

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