SUNY Chancellor: Programming and staffing must align with number of students

SUNY chancellor talks about challenges facing public universities and how they’re being addressed

SUNY chancellor talks about challenges facing public universities and how they're being addressed

There are 100,000 fewer SUNY college students today compared to just 10 years ago, yet this year’s state budget includes an additional $114 million for the SUNY system. 

The president of SUNY Geneseo said in a letter to staff late last year that the college is in a $10 million “financial crisis” and implemented a freeze on hiring and travel.  At a recent budget hearing at SUNY Brockport, the President warned of a $10 million “structural deficit” — since reduced to $3 million — and said she’ll have to look for ways to cut spending, and SUNY Fredonia just cut more than a dozen majors in a cost-saving measure.  

The challenges that SUNY is facing aren’t unique to public universities.  A number of local smaller private schools have seen dramatic decreases in enrollment and fiscal stress as well. 

News10NBC spoke with SUNY Chancellor John King Jr about the challenges ahead and his hopes for the future. 

John King Jr. (SUNY Chancellor): “You’ve got to make sure that the staffing and programming match student interests and the current number of students.”

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): “So, over the next couple of years, you with the help of the trustees and the schools will be looking to right-size a lot of these institutions?”

John King: “We’re working with Geneseo on a financial sustainability plan; the good news is they have a tremendous reputation as really an honors college, they have an extraordinary physics program for example, so part of what we have to do is also grow enrollment.”

Jennifer Lewke: “Where do you and how do you look to tighten the reins and make sure that the investments that are going into these schools are the best use of money?”

John King: “Sure, well, three things — 1) We’ve got to make sure that we align the programming and staffing on campuses with the number of students, so we’re making those adjustments; sometimes they’re painful decisions, but they have to be made for physical health.  2) We’ve got to grow and we have to make sure New Yorkers know what great opportunities are available … and 3) We’ve got to meet students where they are; increasingly we see older students who want to come back to college. We’ve got more than 2 million New Yorkers that have some credits but no degree; we can help them finish.”

Jennifer Lewke: “Where will the additional funding this year go?”

John King: “This year, the bulk of the 114 million that we got in additional funds will go to cover salary increases that are part of the contract we agreed to with UUP, our main facility union. … The remainder will be split between expanding internship opportunities for students, expanding research opportunities for students and faculty as well as reducing graduate fees for the graduate students who work on campus.”