By Mattie Fitzpatrick | October 31, 2022
The Academic Podium of the Uptown University at Albany Campus.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
State universities all over New York are reporting shortages in their annual budgets, which may leave some universities open to tuition increases, cuts in academic programs, specifically humanities, and a reduction in faculty.
With federal budgets for SUNY schools falling all over the state, educators are now looking towards New York State to close the gap between these budget shortages. Due to falling enrollment, high inflation, and the underfunding of higher education, many SUNY campuses are expecting their budgets will be millions of dollars short. UAlbany alone is projected to have budget deficits as high as $15 million in the upcoming year. These issues have not been an isolated incident, though.
SUNY schools have been experiencing budget issues for a number of years now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. United University Professions (UUP) president, Frederick Kowal said in a statement, “For too long, our campuses have been underfunded by the state which has foisted the burden of funding our campuses onto the backs of students and parents through higher tuition and fees and other ever-increasing costs.”
Professors feel that these cuts are going to have extreme consequences for humanities majors according to Heidi Tworek in an article published in the Atlantic. Majors such as English, history, religious studies, philosophy and more are considered humanities and may be at risk for budget cuts in their programs. UAlbany specifically has a history of suspending its humanities programs due to funding being cut. In 2010, the university suspended French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater as Bachelor’s programs. This decision was met with a large public outcry from educators and students. This eventually resulted with a Bachelor’s program in theater being reinstated, as well as Italian, Russian, and French being available only as minors through the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. It was made clear through this change that humanities majors are more susceptible to budget cuts than STEM programs at the university.
A SUNY spokesperson spoke out about these claims, noting that Governor Kathy Hochul and other state leaders made historic investments in the SUNY system by introducing a $300 million increase in funds and $53 million to hire new faculty.
Kowal said that although SUNY was grateful for the extra funds, it does not overcome 15 years of underfunding for SUNY institutions. “Flat budgets haven't helped give way to larger class sizes,” Kowal said.
Kowal also said that additional state funding is needed to address more permanent issues such as expanding health care teaching programs, job training resources and others to increase SUNY’s budget long term. UUP leadership will be collaborating with members of the Professional Staff Congress which is a union that represents 30,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) and their research foundation.
The shortage in budgeting may affect students in the future. The university’s affordability may decrease and it is possible that tuition will increase. Historically, when university budgets are cut, tuition increases, faculty is reduced, courses become limited and in some cases campuses close according to an article written published in The Buffalo News. The benefit of education is something that can not be understated, but it is getting increasingly difficult to achieve higher education within the SUNY system. With the gap between budget projections and goals ever increasing, UAlbany is left with a budget short of $15 million and limited options.