A new two-year trade-based SUNY campus would reduce Ulster County’s debt and bring educational opportunities, economic development, jobs training and jobs to the area.
As we celebrate the news that highlights the accomplishments of recent college graduates, it is important for us to discuss how newly announced strategies for the funding and administration of New York State’s SUNY college system will coincide with Ulster County’s needs from its relationship with SUNY. SUNY’s 64 campuses serve the needs of over 468,000 students while the four Flagship University Centers: Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook collectively have an enrollment of 86,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Recently, Gov. Cuomo announced what he described as a “bold” plan to initiate the development and growth of tax-free economic zones to be primarily based around the expansion of research-based centers at each of the four university centers (like the new nanotech center that is currently under construction as an addition to the SUNY-Albany campus). Under the proposal that Cuomo presents, participating business would be eligible for tax credits which Gov. Cuomo said would absolve such businesses from paying state property or income taxes for 10 years.
Gov. Cuomo’s plan for economic development around these newly constructed research centers follows the main theme that is echoed throughout the provisions that are put forth in the NY SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program that Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher presented earlier this year. Under the NY SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program, an additional $35 million in capital funding will be administered to each of the four University Center campuses with $20 million of this coming from the Empire State Development Corporation and $15 Million to come from SUNY’s Construction Fund. While the four University Center campuses do generate over $600 million in annual revenues from research-based grants and funding, the NY SUNY 2020 plan only focuses on the needs of the four University Centers while neglecting the needs of the other 60 campuses at SUNY and ignoring the fact that another two-year trade-based SUNY campus needs to be built in Northern Ulster County to accommodate the needs of Ulster County Residents. More specifically, a two-year SUNY campus that is similar to the SUNY campuses at SUNY-Cobleskill and SUNY-Delhi needs to be built in Northern Saugerties in order to partially reduce the $2.8 million in community college chargeback reimbursement fees that Ulster County currently pays out to neighboring counties to partially cover the tuition expenditures for the 1,814 residents of Ulster County who attended out-of-county community colleges in 2012. In the 2011-2012 school year, Ulster County paid out $3.28 million for these 1,814 students while only taking in $424,000 from out-of-county students attending SUNY-Ulster. And although the enrollment at SUNY-Ulster declined from 2,180 students in 2010-2011 to 2,110 students in 2011-2012, the Ulster County budget for community college related expenditures did not, as the Ulster County Legislature allocated $6.28 million for such expenditures in 2012.
The number of Ulster County residents attending out-county community colleges continues to rise as there were 836 Ulster County residents attending other community colleges throughout the state in 2009-2010 with that number rising to 1,360 in 2010-2011 and then 1,814 in 2011-2012. Currently, there is nearly a 1:1 ratio between Ulster County residents attending SUNY-Ulster and Ulster County residents who are attending out-of-county community colleges. Because of this, over 43 percent of the total expenditures allocated in the Ulster County Budget for community college-related expenses are specifically earmarked to subsidize the enrollment of Ulster County residents attending out-of-county community colleges. This trend cannot continue, as the fiscal data from this problem highlights the need for a two-year trade-based SUNY campus to be built in Northern Ulster County. Many of the majors offered at such two-year trade-based campuses are not offered at local colleges like SUNY-Ulster or SUNY-New Paltz, and many of these programs are oriented towards immediate assimilation into the workforce upon graduation. In this recessionary-based economy, more educational opportunities need to be provided for all students and not just those attending SUNY’s four University Centers. The construction of a two-year trade-based SUNY campus in Saugerties would stimulate the economy through the construction process and the creation of new jobs while facilitating economic growth with the proliferation of new businesses throughout Northern Ulster County. Getting such a proposal into the government structure within Albany will require newly elected Legislators to directly lobby for the assistance of State Assemblymen and Senators to add addendums to the SUNY 2020 Plan which would allocate for the funding of expansions within the SUNY System to include the construction of a new two-year trade-based SUNY campus in Saugerties.
editor’s note—The writer is a candidate for the Democratic and Working Families party nomination for county Legislature District II, which includes the village and Barclay Heights