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Ettling Calls Governor's Reform Proposals Key to Continued Success of SUNY System

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Jan. 16, 2009) - SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling today announced his support for the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, proposed by Governor David Paterson yesterday. Ettling said the reform measures would enable New York's public higher education system to better prepare students for the jobs of the future, while also developing the jobs of today.

Ettling said, "A rational tuition policy for our students and an end to overregulation, if approved by the state Legislature, would go a long way toward making a public education more affordable to students and toward creating jobs."

Under Paterson's proposals, the State University of New York as well as the City University of New York would be allowed to receive and disburse revenues from tuition and self-supporting program activities without an appropriation and the state Legislature's approval. They would also be able to implement a fair, equitable and responsible tuition policy that would provide SUNY and CUNY with the discretion to raise tuition incrementally up to an annual cap of two-and-one-half times the five-year rolling average of the Higher Education Price Index. Finally, they would be able to implement differential tuition rates for programs and campuses to enhance academic quality, based on the recommendation of the college president and in accordance with specific guidelines promulgated by the trustees.

Ettling said, "Unfortunately, students and their families have borne an unfair burden as a result of budget crises in Albany. To address shortfalls, the state Legislature increases tuition substantially to help close those gaps, and students are forced to take on additional loans to pay for their college education. If, instead, tuition were gradually increased when necessary -- and those increases went to the individual campuses instead of to the general fund -- students and their families would be able to anticipate and plan for the true cost of attending college."

Ettling said he was also pleased with the governor's recommendations that would make SUNY more efficient in procuring goods and services. The governor has proposed removing provisions of existing law subjecting SUNY and CUNY to pre-approval of contracts by the Office of the State Comptroller. Doing so would streamline the procurement of goods and services, while maintaining provisions requiring the post-audit of such contracts by that office.

"There have been countless times when contracts have been held up for months waiting for pre-approval from Albany while critical needs went unaddressed," said Ettling. "Changes have been made to contracts due to the length of time between a vendor's proposal and approval. This reform would go a long way in saving precious state funding that can then be used to educate students and create new jobs, especially in today's fragile economy."

Ettling said he knows there are many urgent issues that the Legislature must face during this session, but taking up the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act for consideration should be a top priority.

"With these reforms, SUNY could be a key partner in helping the State of New York climb out of this financial crisis now, while positioning the university system to better serve the students of New York well into the future."

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