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Statement From President Matonak Regarding Governor Paterson's Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act

Hudson Valley Community College supports the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which is part of Governor Paterson's Executive Budget proposal. It contains zero-cost solutions that will create jobs, build the foundation of tomorrow's economy, and strengthen public higher education - while saving taxpayer dollars.

The SUNY/CUNY Empowerment Act would provide our sister institutions of public higher education with greater operational independence. The measures would eliminate numerous over regulations on contracting, procurement, land use, and other areas, while still maintaining appropriate accountability and state oversight.

These reforms would create more than 2,200 faculty positions, 7,000 staff positions, 43,000 construction jobs on SUNY university and medical center campuses, according to SUNY estimates. They also would expand access to higher education by allowing SUNY four-year campuses to accommodate an additional 20,000 students above planned targets.

This proposal would expand options for some SUNY and CUNY campuses to finance and construct capital facilities and dormitories through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). Projects that have not been affordable could come to fruition with DASNY's lower rate of financing.

Currently, SUNY and CUNY tuition rates are determined by the state budget process. This has created a system in which tuition increases occur almost exclusively to close budget gaps. This legislation would allow the SUNY Board of Trustees to implement differential tuition for all SUNY state-operated campuses, by campus and program. This will make the cost of public higher education more equitable and predictable for students and families.

Overall, this legislation would have a positive impact on the SUNY system. However, the proposed cuts in state aid for community colleges in Governor Paterson's Executive Budget would have a far-reaching impact on their ability to meet the increased needs of the state's regions. The proposed cuts would force community colleges to raise tuition significantly and shift more and more of the financial burden to students, who already foot more than their share of the bill. This will take a college education out of reach for many of the state's citizens at a time when they need community colleges the most. We must remain affordable.