April 30, 2003

C.U. May Lose State Funds

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Despite a tuition hike of $1200, Cornell’s four statutory schools will still be in the red by $18 million next year if the governor’s proposed bdget passes through the State Senate.

The four state schools — the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the School of Industrial Labor Relatations, College of Human Ecology and the College of Veterinary Medicine — have a budget allocation of about $485 million this year, with $141 million in state appropriations.

The budgetary woes come as New York State is reeling from one of its worst financial crises in decades. According to State assembly member, Barbara Lifton 125 (D), the state is suffering from a “quadruple whammy.”

Lifton, whose district includes Cornell’s Ithaca Campus, explained that the national recession, the “bust on Wall Street”, the September 11th terrorist attacks, and recent tax cuts have combined to create an economic crisis.

According to her, besides the direct cost of the terrorist attacks, the state loses $1.5 billion a year in lost revenue as a result of the devastation of lower Manhattan.

Vice President for University Relations, Henrik N. Dullea ’61, also attributed at least some of the financial difficulties on the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“[The fiscal problems are] not unique in terms of New York State, but New York might have had a particularly tough wallop because of 9/11 and the financial downfall,” he said.

The state has proposed cutting funding to SUNY schools across the board, and has recommended tuition hikes to cover the difference in state allocation. Cornell is an aberration in relation to all other SUNY schools, because it is the state’s land grant school and has in addition to its education mission, a large research mission.

On the average, SUNY schools receive 58 percent of funds from the state, while Cornell receives 93 percent that way. “When SUNY takes a hit, Cornell suffers a disproportionate hit,” Lifton said.

In reference to this problem, Lifton said, “People need to recognize that Cornell does things that other SUNY schools do not do.”

Cornell’s budgetary woes have taken top precedence for Lifton. “Cornell is a very important priority for me. Education is our business,” she said.

She and other representatives from the area hope to convince Albany to correct this cut, but she is being cautiously optimistic in this endeavor.

“It’s a bigger gap than we can realistically fill,” she said.

Cornell is struggling to find a way to cover the missing funds. According to Dullea, next year for one of the first times in recent memories, the University’s endowment will take a ten percent reduction.

Dullea said that the University is reviewing various “contingency plans” but refused to divulge any details of said plans.

Many in the Ithaca community are aware and conscious of the difficulties that these proposed cuts could mean for the Cornell and Ithaca region.

A recent Ithaca Journal article calculated that $10 million of that $18 million would go to personnel, figuring in at over 300 jobs. Dullea did not agree with this calculation. The University has not decided how to cover the discrepancy and firings are not a foregone conclusion.

The University is presently trying to lobby the state to increase funding. President Hunter R. Rawlings III has recently traveled to the Albany to meet with Majority Leader of the State Senate, Joseph Bruno. According to Dullea, Rawlings has been in contact with Governor George Pataki, who “received him very well.” He did concede that some difficult decision would soon have to be made.

“If the budget as proposed comes to pass it will be difficult to avoid layoffs,” he said.

William Fry, associate dean, College of Agriculture and Life Science, said of the cuts, “If the worst case scenario applies, the cuts to this college indeed would be devastating.”

When asked if the prior hiring freezing would be reinstated Dullea said, “It isn’t likely to be put back into effect.” The reason for this being that the freeze was “quite effective” in making all involved in personal decisions “very cautious of making new commitments.”

“The freeze is a very blunt instrument,” said Dullea.

With 9,500 employees between the Ithaca campus and the agricultural research in Geneva, Cornell is the largest employer in Tompkins County, making this a weighty issue for the surrounding community.

Archived article by Michael Margolis