September 27, 2000

SUNY Budget Falls Short of C.U.'s Projected Needs

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Despite a $4.5 million budget increase from last year, Cornell administrators say the $134.6 million in funding the University will receive from the State University of New York (SUNY) system will not be enough to cover the needs of the four statutory colleges: the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Funding in recent years has not been enough to meet all the inflationary costs in the statutory schools, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

“The size of the shortfalls have not been trivial,” said Patsy M. Brannon, dean of the human ecology college. She estimates the total shortfall at $2 million to $4 million for all statutory schools combined.

“We have to make sure we’re aligning our priorities with the resources we have,” Brannon said. “It means you have to make very hard decisions,” she added.

The human ecology college’s inflationary costs include utilities, library acquisitions and accessory instruction. The statutory schools receive a bill for accessory instruction, which are the classes statutory students take in Cornell’s private colleges. While the cost of accessory instruction has increased, the statutory schools are still not getting enough money from SUNY to pay the bill, Brannon explained.

Faculty salaries constitute another concern for the funding of statutory schools. This year’s state budget included funds for faculty raises in the SUNY Salary Improvement Program (SIP), but for several years there was no SIP allocation.

“SUNY cuts … communicate to faculty that the SUNY system accords low priority to Cornell statutory colleges,” said Edward J. Lawler, dean of the ILR school. “The effects of budget shortfalls … results in generally inadequate teaching and research support for faculty overall.”

Budget cuts also reduce the number and variety of courses available to students, because of delays in hiring of faculty or limitations on the hiring of temporary instructors to deal with short-term needs, Lawler added.

The colleges face pressure to retain distinguished faculty at Cornell, an endeavor that can be aided by state resources. “Outstanding faculty and students are the most important resources of any college,” Brannon added.

Brannon is examining alternative resources to help fill the gap left by the SUNY budget, such as the human ecology college’s own discretionary funds and tuition. Other statutory schools are taking similar measures.

Brannon has had to explore new ways to “balance the mix (of in-state and out-of-state students) to ensure that we have the tuition revenues that we need to maintain the quality of the undergraduate experience,” she said.

One reason for the inadequacies in funding is that the SUNY budgeting plan rewards state universities based on increases in enrollment.

This new system of allocating money does not benefit Cornell, an institution that wants to keep enrollment down, Dullea argued.

“We are not attempting to increase our enrollment, in either the statutory or endowed colleges,” Dullea said. “An increase in freshman enrollment this year created a crunch,” he added, referring to the housing shortage that has forced many freshmen to live in lounges until permanent housing becomes available.

“I tend to agree with Cornell [that the system needs revision],” said Assemblyman Martin A. Luster (D-125th).

However, there is not much the state can do to persuade SUNY to [specifically] allocate more money for Cornell. “The more money that goes to SUNY, the more money that goes to Cornell,” Luster explained.

Cornell has periodically asked Luster to intervene with SUNY during the last decade, he said.

Enrollment, however, is not the only factor determining how much money the statutory schools get from SUNY.

Research and social policy combine as another category in which schools can qualify for money from SUNY. Out of the $194 million in state support allocated specifically for research or public service, $73.8 million went to Cornell, according to Dave Henahan, director of media relations for SUNY. This amount represents twice the sum any other state university was allotted in the area of research and social policy.

An example of public service at Cornell is Cornell Cooperative Extension, which is funded without regard to growth in enrollment.

Archived article by Heather Schroeder