Governor Paterson Calls for the Passage of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act

ALBANY, NY (05/11/2010)(readMedia)-- Governor David A. Paterson today was joined by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, students and university, business and labor leaders in urging the Legislature to pass the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. 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.

"The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act will provide SUNY and CUNY with the freedom and flexibility they need to prepare students for the future, create jobs and promote economic development," Governor Paterson said. "My proposal would help SUNY and CUNY reach their full potential and drive development both on campus and off. This reform is supported by students, the faculty, labor and university administrators alike, and we urge the legislature to take swift action to pass this important bill."

The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act 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.

Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravich said: "After more than four decades in public service, I firmly believe that higher education has a unique power to drive statewide prosperity and help us grow out of recession. The Empowerment and Innovation Act is the result of several years of recognition by higher education experts that SUNY and CUNY currently operate in a system that limits the positive impact they have on our students lives and on the economic health of our State. We cannot afford to leave this opportunity on the table."

The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act has received broad-based support from the SUNY Student Assembly and university administrators as well as the SUNY Faculty Senate, business leaders and organized labor.

"The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act builds upon the tradition of access to excellence that our institutions of public higher education have come to embody," the Governor added. "It is critical that the Legislature enact this transformative reform."

Additional information on the proposal can be found at:


The following statements were provided in support of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act:

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said: "Governor Paterson's Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act gives SUNY the tools to maximize the impact of our ambitious strategic plan, to provide world-class educational opportunities to the greatest possible number of New Yorkers, and to be a key driver of New York's economic resurgence."

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said: "CUNY provides access to a high-quality education for hundreds of thousands of students each year, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Our students and their families must be able to plan sufficiently to help meet the costs of their education. We have supported for many years the establishment by the State of a rational tuition policy very consistent with the Governor's Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. Our State needs this compact for public higher education, both to avoid excessive and unpredictable tuition increases and to assure that tuition revenues are available for investment."

SUNY Faculty Senate President Ken O'Brien said: "After close examination of both the elements of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act and the opposing arguments that have been voiced about the Act's impact on SUNY and its constituents, the University Faculty Senate strongly endorsed the principles of Governor Paterson's Empowerment Act."

Melody Mercedes, outgoing President of the SUNY Student Assembly, said: "We represent the future workforce of New York State. For too long, we students and our families have been forced to play tuition roulette while revenues from occasional, drastic tuition hikes go to filling Albany's budget deficit. We applaud the Governor's commitment to breaking that sordid tradition and ensuring SUNY campuses provide an excellent education to all students."

Kenneth Adams, President and CEO of the Business Council of New York State, Inc., said: "SUNY and CUNY are essential to creating an Innovation Economy in New York. Governor Paterson's Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act paves the way for excellence in both systems and offers a brighter future for economic growth in New York."

Ed Malloy, President of the New York Building Trades, said: "Governor Paterson's Empowerment and Innovation Act promises to spur continued construction on SUNY campuses across the State. In a time of fiscal hardship for all New Yorkers, investments in the physical plant of our public systems of higher education are wise investments that will last for years to come and help us grow out of the current recession."

State University at Buffalo President John Simpson said: "A strong public higher education system for New York State, anchored by excellent research universities, is our best hope for creating the knowledge-based economy New York State needs to prosper in the 21st century. That's why the University at Buffalo and our SUNY partners have put forth a responsible, and responsive, policy proposal that will empower us to help our State weather the current economic storm, and help us all move forward toward a brighter future. The passage of Governor Paterson's Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act proposal is essential to realizing this vision – and to ensuring equitable access to the opportunities created by this new economy."

SUNY Stony Brook President Sam Stanley, Jr., M.D., said: "The fiscal crisis has forced campuses, families and students around New York to make hard choices. 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 need the reforms included in Governor Paterson's proposal."

SUNY College at Old Westbury President Reverend Calvin O. Butts, III, said: "SUNY is a public system meant to be accessible to those who seek a higher education. Instead, with tuition set in the political arena and cuts forced by the economic condition, thousands – if not tens of thousands – of students who might benefit from public education are being left out because SUNY campuses cannot afford to offer the courses they need. More and more, New Yorkers are being left at the curb while others travel the path from cradle to career. Governor Paterson's Empowerment and Innovation Act proposal will increase the number of students who can get on that path."

Herkimer Community College President Ann Marie Murray said: "Community college enrollments are exploding around our State and around the country. With Governor Paterson's Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, together with 'The Power of SUNY', which will serve as a catalyst for New York's economic revitalization, we will have the tools necessary to keep our inherent promise in providing a pathway to quality education for all. We stand willing and able to meet the social and economic challenges before us with The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act as the enabling legislation making it possible."


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