‘Sense Of Optimism’: SUNY Chief Backs Fredonia ‘choices’

SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. talked with Fredonia student Hannah Belknap as he visited the SUNY Fredonia campus Monday.

State University of New York Chancellor John B. King Jr. believes the leadership at Fredonia is making the right decisions in attempting to reverse the fiscal and enrollment concerns that have been plaguing the campus in recent years. King was a Monday morning guest of President Dr. Stephen Kolison and toured the grounds while communicating with students.

“We think institutions that are clear-eyed about their financial challenges, make hard choices, make investments in areas of growth are actually going to be the ones that are positioned to survive and thrive,” King said. “SUNY Fredonia is doing that and President Kolison deserves a lot of credit for leading the community through hard choices.”

King’s visit to the campus was his second in about a year. It was his first stop since Kolison announced the “True Blue Transformation” plan that reduced majors in December during a campus meeting.

At the time, Kolison presented the cuts as necessary to tackle the school’s long-running structural deficit — which he said currently stands at around $10 million while campus enrollment is now below 3,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

Those programs included degree tracks in early childhood education from birth to grade 2, mathematics for grades five to nine, visual arts in ceramics, photography, sculpture and art history, French and its adolescence education program, Spanish and its adolescence education program, philosophy, sociology and industrial management.

These represent 15% of all majors at the campus but have a combined enrollment of just 74 students, or 2.2% of the undergraduate population, Kolison said. Those figures were reiterated during the press briefing with the chancellor.

In addition to addressing the concerns at Fredonia, King touched on some positive news the SUNY system received in the state budget that was approved over the weekend. According to state Gov. Kathy Hochul, the plan provides $396 million in new operating support including $150 million for SUNY state-operated campuses. Also, the spending plan provides $710 million in new funding for capital projects to help maintain existing facilities at SUNY state-operated campuses. The budget also increased the minimum award for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) from $500 to $1,000 while increasing the student income limits for TAP eligibility.

“If we didn’t get additional state support, we would end up with a $1 billion systemwide deficit over a 10-year period,” King said. “We made the case that we need regular increases and state support and the state stepped up to do that … to help us address some of the costs addressed with the (United University Professionals) contract.”

SUNY Fredonia is one of three campuses that have been in the spotlight due to deficits. The others, SUNY Potsdam and Buffalo State, are going through similar processes to reduce expenses while aiming to increase student numbers.

King noted his support for the job being done by Kolison, who came to the campus in August 2020. “It’s very clear there’s a sense of optimism about the future,” he said. It’s really encouraging.”


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