September 16, 2021

SUNY rally backs more aid

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Jen Drake, who works at SUNY Cortland’s tutoring program with Sonya, right, listen as Susan Wilson, an associate professor and Cortland County legislator, rallies Tuesday for increased funding for SUNY at a rally about 40 people attended in Cortland, organized by United University Professions.

When SUNY students leave school as much as $35,000 in debt, and sometimes choose between buying books and buying groceries, and when schools are cutting programs and staff to keep the students on campus — that’s a good time to tax the super-rich, union ralliers said Tuesday, calling on the state to increase SUNY funding.

“What we’re trying to do is make the dreams of our students come true,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal at a rally about 40 people attended at the Corey Union on campus.

But that’s a little difficult when the gap between full SUNY tuition and what New York awards Tuition Assistance Program recipients is $75 million. Individual campuses have to make up that difference, and cut their spending elsewhere to do it, he said. That’s $2.8 million at SUNY Cortland.

The union, which represents 42,000 faculty and professional staff at the SUNY campuses, has been lobbying Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature for increases to the $10.7 billion at which state funding has remained for nearly a decade. To fund that, it proposed a number of revenue sources, including:

  • A new tax on billionaires, including a tax on unrealized capital gains.
  • New income tax brackets for millionaires, including a tax rate up to 10.32% on household incomes more than $100 million.
  • A tax on luxury, non-primary residential properties in New York City.

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Michelle LoGerfo, left, SUNY Cortland’s assistant director of web and digital marketing, and Lecturer Anne Wiegard create signs Tuesday ahead of a United University Professions rally to urge the state to increase SUNY funding.

 

In 2011, New York had 28,000 millionaires, Kowal said. Today it has 50,000. “When they put the millionaires tax in, it didn’t drive them out. You could fill a stadium with them.”

“SUNY has been drastically underfunded,” said SUNY Cortland junior Callie Humphrey of Manlius, a political science major, adding that some students live in their cars, and other must choose between buying textbooks and buying groceries.

“Publicly funded higher education should be a right for anyone who wants it,” she said.

“It is the right of all citizens and the responsibility of our government to assure access for all,” said Associate Professor Susan Wilson, who is also a Cortland County legislator.

Hope remains, Kowal said. A number of funding shifts are likely to die in the budget-drafting process. “There’s real movement to get some funding there.”