Letter details SUNY Geneseo “financial crisis,” hiring and travel freeze

SUNY Geneseo hiring/travel freeze

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GENESEO, N.Y. – The president of SUNY Geneseo says the college is in a $10 million “financial crisis.” In a letter to college staff, she put a freeze on hiring and travel.

The letter, shared with News10NBC, acknowledges that the crisis and hiring and travel freeze is “alarming.”

The union that represents SUNY faculty and staff told me this crisis started 15 years ago.

Brean: “Are you aware of this crisis at SUNY Geneseo?”

Fred Kowal is the president of United University Professions, UUP for short.

Kowal: “Yes.”

“It’s not surprising given the fact that the college is facing a structural deficit that is going to have to be dealt with,” Kowal said.

In the letter written by Geneseo President Denise Battle, she pins the deficit at $10 million and says “SUNY Geneseo is in the midst of a financial crisis.”

The letter says there is a freeze on hiring for open positions and new travel.

Brean: “How did SUNY Geneseo get into this spot if you know?”

Kowal: “It is absolutely a very basic set of circumstances. First and foremost starting with the Great Recession of 2008 SUNY acorss the board was hit with two rounds of cuts. It was the only state agency that never was compensated for those cuts. And then to make matter much worse Andrew Cuomo spent almost 13 years of budget cutting, of aggressive austerity budget cuts for the SUNY campuses and that put these campuses in a situation where they were totally dependent on tuition and fees, for the most part.”

That relies on enrollment. Ten years ago Geneseo’s enrollment was 5,557. Last year it was 4,210. The whole SUNY system has lost 108,000 students in the last 10 years. It’s not just Geneseo in trouble.

UUP says 18 other SUNY campuses have deficits including Albany, Brockport, Buffalo State, Canton, Cortland, Fredonia and Oswego.

But we’re not aware of any other campus — other than Geneseo — with a hiring and travel freeze.

Brean: “What do you think the experience is for the students there?”

Kowal: “Well it is a situation where I hear from our members is that they are continuing to do the work they have always done.”

The Geneseo letter says they’ll make an exception on hiring if it’s for health and safety, critical to operate the school or generates money.

Travel already approved will still happen, so there is no impact on Geneseo sports.

This year’s state budget increased SUNY’s take by $163 million. The UUP union says that money should go to these deficits. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office and SUNY released a report showing SUNY’s total enrollment increased this school year. That is the first increase in 10 years.