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GCC president supports proposed college legislation

Stuart Steiner, Ph.D, president of Genesee Community, supports Gov. David Paterson's Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.

He says it would grant greater autonomy to State University of New York campuses and permit new economic development and partnership initiatives on SUNY campuses. [Gov. Paterson's announcement is described in this release from the Governor's office: http://www.state.ny.us/governor/press/press_01151001.html]

Steiner issued this statement on the proposed legislation:

"Last (month), Gov. David Paterson proposed the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act which, if enacted by the State Legislature, would give state-operated SUNY campuses more autonomy and flexibility and permit many new initiatives on all SUNY campuses.

"The Governor's proposed Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act is a powerful proposal that is being put forth at the right time. Dollars for public higher education are being limited and even severely reduced, so there is a great need to maximize the use of the dollars available to SUNY. For the state-operated campuses, the Act removes much of the tangled bureaucratic process for use of SUNY funds, and shifts many decisions and operational responsibilities to the SUNY Board appointed to provide oversight to SUNY colleges.

"If the dollars allocated to SUNY are going to be limited, then it seems that decisions about how to best use those dollars and how to generate tuition and other revenue should be left to those who have been appointed to be responsible for this multibillion dollar operation.

"The Act does very little for community colleges in terms of direct assistance, but whenever our public four-year institutions and university centers are strengthened, everyone benefits, especially the tens of thousands of students that we transfer to SUNY and CUNY colleges every year. When those colleges have the flexibility to use those resources to support the growing number of students, everyone wins. SUNY suggests that once the Act is fully implemented, state-operated SUNY colleges may be able to take in an additional 20,000 students. Hopefully a designated portion of these seats will be set aside for transfer students who graduate from SUNY community colleges, especially in those programs that are now at capacity.

"While the Governor should be saluted for this bold proposal, which outlines changes that have long been sought and long been needed, it was disappointing to see the Governor's budget proposal making such a large cut in state aid to community colleges. At this time in New York State history, when we are trying to maximize the use of our limited public resources, it seems that the Governor and Legislature should strongly support community colleges since we are, by far, the least expensive of all colleges and we provide the lowest cost-per student in any level of education in the state. As in the past, the community colleges will look to their local legislators to continue the support they have historically given to community colleges, and specifically to help minimize the level of state aid reductions for the coming year.

"Again, the Governor should be commended for The Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, and I believe that the more our citizens become familiar with the Act, the more they will embrace and support it."

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