State funds for BU hit historic low: 21 percent

Photo from Binghamton UniversityState funding for Binghamton University is at an all-time low.

James Van Voorst, vice president for administration of BU, said that state taxpayer support of the University is currently 21 percent of BU’s operating budget. Tuition, research grants and private donations make up much of the rest of BU’s operating budget.

Harpur College, BU’s predecessor, was absorbed into the SUNY system in 1965. Since then, BU’s designation as a state school is based on its inclusion in the SUNY system, which is administered in Albany, and is not determined by the percentage of University funds that come from the state. New York State is not required by law to support Binghamton University or other SUNY schools by any minimal level of funding.

“State funding, in theory, could go down to zero percent and we’d still be a state school,” Van Voorst said. “The state has no law that requires a certain level of funding.”

Alyssa Santavicca, a senior majoring in psychology, said BU should not be considered a state school if such a distinction does not necessarily require state funding.

“It just seems counterintuitive because we are, by definition, a state school, so you would think that would require a certain percentage of state support,” she said.

NYSUNY 2020, which was signed into law on Aug. 9 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, authorized the SUNY Board of Trustees to raise tuition for SUNY and CUNY campuses every year for the next five years. SUNY schools will raise tuition $300 per year for in-state students through the 2015-16 academic year, $940 per year for out-of-state students at SUNY colleges and $1,340 per year for out-of-state students at the SUNY University Centers located in Binghamton, Stony Brook, Buffalo and Albany.

“This legislation helped BU in several ways, including bringing rationality and predictability to the tuition system, protecting low-income students, assuring accessibility and authorizing $140 million in capital funding for the four University Centers,” said Morris Peters, an employee of the New York State Budget Division.

Van Voorst said that he wishes there was more state funding for BU.

“The best would be 100 percent state support, where we didn’t have to charge tuition,” Van Voorst said. “That would be the ultimate support of the state university system. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, but it would be great.”

The “Financial Plan Overview of the Executive Budget for the 2011-2012 Fiscal Year” details the 10 percent reduction in funding for both SUNY and CUNY operations that the New York State Legislature passed this year.

The report recommended $961.6 million for “State-operated campuses” in the SUNY system, a $100 million reduction in operating support from last year.

Donna Lupardo (D), the assemblywoman for the 126th district — which encompasses BU — and a member of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, said she thought levels of state support for SUNY are problematic.

“I’ve been concerned for many years about reductions in support for SUNY,” Lupardo said.

Matthew Schwartz, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said he thinks the state should be allocating more funding to higher education.

“Bright young minds are the key to the future of the state,” Schwartz said. “Low levels of investment by the state indicate a poor commitment to the future.”

Schwartz added that though BU competes with institutions like Cornell University, the two are on completely different “playing fields” when it comes to funding.

“With such low funding and low tuition costs, it seems the public universities like BU are expected to provide the same benefits as a private school, but we have significantly less capital to do so,” he said.