New York is facing calls from faculty to boost the state's public university system by launching a university endowment — a step dozens of other states have taken.
Lawmakers on the state Senate higher education committee held a hearing Monday as the state budget process continues.
New York's economy is still rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state is facing demands for increased spending at a time when tax collections are strong. The state's general fund as of September was $4.5 billion higher than the previous September.
It's time for New York to allocate $150 million in additional aid to state-operated campuses, said Frederick Kowal, president of the United University Professions union, which represents more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty.
Kowal told lawmakers that New York flat-funded higher education and increased the state's reliance on students' tuition and fees under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has since resigned amid sexual harassment allegations and a looming impeachment trial.
“The abandonment of our public higher education system has directly led to drops in enrollment,” Kowal said.
And Kowal said an endowment would provide a long-term funding resource to rebuild “depleted” academic departments and hire and promote a more diverse workforce.
He urged lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul to speed up the timeline for the state to fully reimburse campuses who cover tuition for scores of students.
Kowal said the state should also cover debt service of state university teaching hospitals that have treated “thousands of COVID patients.”
The state eliminated state support to those hospitals in 2018, according to Kowal.