Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., joined New York State Governor David Paterson and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on May 11 as the Governor urged the New York State Legislature to pass the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA). The Act includes the most significant reforms to the State’s public higher education system in a generation and was introduced as part of the Governor’s 2010-11 Executive Budget. Also at the rally expressing support of PHEEIA were Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch; CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein; students; and university, business, and labor leaders.
President Stanley said that with so many factions solidly in support of PHEEIA—labor leaders, business organizations, students, faculty, campus presidents, SUNY and CUNY administration, the SUNY Board of Trustees, the Governor, and the senate majority—it is clear that this legislation is the right thing for New York’s public universities.
“The fiscal crisis has forced campuses, families, and students around New York to make hard choices,” said President Stanley. “In order to make those choices as strategically as possible and to maintain areas of true excellence in public colleges and universities throughout the State, we all need the reforms included in Governor Paterson’s proposal.”
PHEEIA achieves reform in three key areas of public higher education governance: tuition, public-private partnerships, and procurement. Working from a template established by the Commission on Higher Education, the proposal takes tuition-setting out of the State budget process and allows for the SUNY and CUNY systems to implement rational and differential tuition policies, making tuition more equitable and predictable for students and families; allows for campuses to more efficiently enter into public-private partnerships to pursue collaborative research and development partnerships that will drive New York’s future prosperity; and eliminates burdensome and unnecessary regulation and micromanagement and streamlines the procurement process.
President Stanley has stated that if State support remained constant, the increased revenue from PHEEIA would enable Stony Brook to hire 400 new faculty over the next decade, increase the availability of classes to help students graduate on time, create smaller class sizes, provide students with more one-on-one time to interact with faculty, and free up faculty to work with students on the kinds of research that lead to discoveries, therapies, innovations, and cures. And he pledged to work to keep our most economically disadvantaged students and their families harmless from these tuition increases by designating some of the revenue for scholarships.
The Act would grant Stony Brook more autonomy to achieve efficiencies in business transactions with enhanced transparency and accountability in our practices. This would result in cost savings to the University and to the State of New York that could be reinvested elsewhere. Increased autonomy would also strengthen the ability of Stony Brook University Hospital to remain on the cutting edge of innovation.
In April, the Center for Survey Research released the results from a poll of the university faculty and non-teaching professionals indicating that faculty supported PHEEIA provisions across the board, and expressed strong support for the legislation. A majority of faculty and a majority or plurality of staff supported giving greater control of tuition to the SUNY Board of Trustees, letting tuition increase predictably for the next ten years, and allowing the four SUNY university centers (including Stony Brook) to charge higher tuition than other SUNY campuses. A majority also supported relaxing state control of public-private partnerships on campus.
“Stony Brook has had to make tough choices in the current fiscal environment to preserve the quality of education for all students,” said President Stanley. “While we have taken criticism for such actions, our mission is to provide a top-quality education. The reforms put forth by the Governor in the Empowerment Act, if currently in place, would have helped mitigate some of those decisions. There is no doubt that passage of this legislation would help ensure that we are one of the great universities in the world. Our students deserve no less.”