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Deficits At SUNY Campuses Spotlighted In Buffalo Rally

Assemblywoman Monica Wallace speaks as a TV cameraman films during a Tuesday press conference in Buffalo to demand state action on multi-million dollar deficits at Buffalo State College and SUNY Fredonia. Photo by M.J. Stafford

BUFFALO — Massive deficits at State University of New York schools, including Fredonia, got heavy criticism at a Tuesday press conference.

The higher education union United University Professions (UUP) hosted the presser at Buffalo State College.

According to a placard next to the podium, SUNY Fredonia is set to run a $16.8 million budget deficit. Buff State is $16 million in the red.

“This is simply unacceptable and to speak candidly, cause for serious concern,” said Frederick Kowal, UUP president.

Kowal said SUNY campuses are economic development drivers that contain “the future change makers of our world and right now, state leaders are depriving these future leaders of our world of oxygen they need. We cannot let these campuses and communities fail due to a lack of proper funding.”

In a nod to rumors that SUNY may start closing campuses because it’s getting fewer students, Kowal said nobody is discussing closure of subway stops or Thruway exits because they are seeing fewer users.

SUNY “can be a leader in reversing our shortages of teachers, nurses and IT professionals … they just need the funding,” he said. The campuses contribute “to a more diverse and highly educated population by providing cultural resources, physical assets and a critical mass of intellectual, civic and economic activity that filters into neighborhoods, businesses and public places.”

Kowal called for the state to provide more funding instead of forcing students to pay more. He said limiting class options, crowding classrooms, and raising tuition and fees are unacceptable.

Several Buffalo-area politicians also spoke in support of UUP and higher funding for the SUNY system.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a Buff State graduate, said, “I am proud to be here to lend my voice to UUP in calling for the fair and full funding of SUNY.” He said SUNY campuses offer a better return than many economic development investments.

Calling fellow Buffalo-area Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul “a strong friend of the SUNY system,” he added, “I can’t think about a Buffalo, a Fredonia, a Western New York without a strong SUNY system.”

State Assemblymember Monica Wallace is another SUNY system graduate, hailing from University of Buffalo’s law school, where she now teaches.

Stating that SUNY opened doors for her and now she can open doors for it, she said the system is “the envy of other states, yet for far too long, we have failed to adequately invest.”

She received applause after declaring, “Fund every SUNY school, not just a handful of flagships.”

Other speakers included State Sen. Tim Kennedy and Assemblyman Jonathan Rivera, whose district contains Buff State. In fact, Rivera was seen walking back down Grant Street to his office after the press conference finished.

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