Cornell's Henrik Dullea testifies at state senate hearing on 'Rethinking SUNY' on Jan. 23

The following testimony is scheduled to be delivered by Henrik N. Dullea, Cornell University vice president for university relations, at a New York State Senate Committee on Higher Education hearing on "Rethinking SUNY." The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Morris Conference Center, State University of New York at Oneonta.

"Good evening, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.

"My name is Henrik Dullea, and I am Vice President for University Relations at Cornell University.

"I would like to begin by thanking you, Mr. Chairman, for convening today's hearing on the future of the State University of New York. SUNY is an extraordinarily important part of the higher education fabric of our state, and its future is closely linked to the future of our children and our children's children. Your long experience as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee gives you a unique and important responsibility for evaluating the planning effort that has been undertaken by the State University Trustees.

"I would also like to express my appreciation to Senator James Seward, whose district stretches to Ithaca on the west and encompasses not only the Ithaca campus of Cornell University but more colleges and universities than any other senatorial district in the state. We all benefit from his counsel and support.

"I should preface my remarks by saying that I have a deep personal and professional attachment to SUNY. More than ninety years ago, my father graduated from what was then known as the Potsdam Normal School. While I did not attend a SUNY institution as a student, I have taught and served in the administration of the State University at Buffalo; I have served as Deputy to the Chancellor for Governmental Relations in the SUNY Central Administration, headed its Community Colleges Office, and for a brief period assumed the role of Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Staff Relations. To round out this picture, I also had the great pleasure of serving as Acting President of the State University College at Purchase. Today, at Cornell, I have the privilege of working closely with our four Statutory Colleges that are also part of the State University system.

"Belief in the importance of the State University for the future of our state is an article of faith that has been reaffirmed on both sides of the political aisle for almost five decades, and that belief needs to be underscored publicly today.

"You and your colleagues on the committee have a special obligation to examine the role of the State University as a key element of the entire social and economic tapestry of the State of New York. This obligation goes far beyond the admittedly difficult challenge of coping with the immediacy of the latest budget battle. Rather, it is a special obligation to consider the entire framework of higher education in our state and how it can best meet our growing educational challenges for generations to come. "The State University has had a remarkable record since its formal creation in 1948. It pulled together existing public and private institutions that dated back to the nineteenth century, such as Albany, Potsdam, Oneonta and Buffalo, and created new campuses such as Stony Brook, Purchase and Empire State College. The State University responded magnificently to serve the returning veterans from World War II who sought to utilize their benefits under the GI Bill of Rights, the baby boomers whose ranks filled many of these institutions beyond the breaking point, and today's non-traditional, older and immigrant students who join the ranks of the grandchildren of earlier generations.

"Literally millions of New Yorkers have attended State University institutions since the system's founding, and the public acclaim for the system's quality and access has been most heartening. At a time when governmentally provided services are under attack for failing to accomplish their mission, the residents and businesses of this state -- voting with their enrollment and hiring decisions -- are clearly of the opinion that 'SUNY works.'

"But saying that 'SUNY works' is not an invitation to avoid critical thinking about its future. The legislature and the governor asked the SUNY Trustees to "develop a multi-year, comprehensive, systemwide plan to increase cost-efficiency in the continuing pursuit of the highest quality and broadest possible access consistent with the state university mission." The Rethinking SUNY plan now before you is the Trustees' response to that charge.

"Cornell's president, Dr. Hunter Rawlings, has expressed to Chancellor Bartlett his belief that, "Putting this report together over the last several months has been an enormous task for you and your colleagues in the Central Administration and on the Board of Trustees. The time and effort devoted to this endeavor by the Trustees in particular need to be acknowledged and applauded."

"The Rethinking SUNY report is, of course, but a first step, put together by the Trustees in the face of extraordinary financial pressure and at a time when their composition was substantially in flux. The efforts of so many SUNY Trustees to visit SUNY campuses over the last several months to obtain a first-hand view of institutional realities should be especially recognized.

"While responding to the specific legislative charge they were given, the Trustees had little opportunity to address many of the issues that would certainly have to be part of their agenda if they were to develop a truly comprehensive, multi-year, statewide plan for the system. The Report itself says little about the overall demand for higher education in New York State, the changing nature of the student body attending all institutions of higher education, particularly those in the State University, the ability of the system's campuses to deliver the educational programs needed by New Yorkers both today and tomorrow, or the significant impact on the nation's higher education system arising from decisions now being made in Washington by the Congress and the President.

"These and many other subjects should be addressed in a truly comprehensive plan for the system's future. I hope, Mr. Chairman, that you and your colleagues will provide the Trustees with the time required to develop such a presentation before any dramatic changes in the system are made at the state level.

"There are many specific suggestions contained in the Rethinking SUNY report that we at Cornell believe deserve your favorable consideration. President Rawlings has written to Chancellor Bartlett, expressing his view that, "The draft report's emphasis on securing educational services of the highest quality while achieving greater campus responsibility and accountability is right on target. Cornell's statutory colleges have benefited over the years from greater flexibility in a number of areas than that available to the system's state-operated campuses, and we have ample evidence of the positive impact this has had in achieving not only excellence in our instructional responsibilities but also well-documented success in meeting our unique, statutorily established research and extension missions." "We are pleased that the Director of Statutory College Affairs at Cornell, Nathan Fawcett, participated directly with the SUNY finance and business officers in recommending many of the administrative productivity suggestions that the Trustees have adopted. The Report's call for substantially improved use of technology in both academic and administrative operations is especially welcome, particularly in the context of the Trustees' recognition in the Report that "[t]echnology will not only enable us to operate more efficiently, it can also increase faculty and learning productivity."

"We at Cornell appreciate that the four statutory colleges at Cornell and the one at Alfred were referenced in the Rethinking SUNY Report. We regret, however, that while recognizing their quality and, at least in some instances, their unique missions, the Report sets forth as an alleged problem financial data indicating that these schools are today receiving more tax dollar support than they were in 1988. Speaking only for the schools at Cornell, we regret that the Report appears to suggest that the statutory colleges have prospered while other campuses in the system have suffered budgetary reductions. This is simply not the case.

"You and the other members of the Committee are aware of the facts:

Cornell's statutory colleges have seen their State- supported operating budgets reduced by SUNY over the last decade in the same proportion as the state-operated campuses. Over the last seven years (the period referred to in the Report's text) after adjustments for inflation we have received $21.6 million in net cumulative permanent cuts from the State University through November of 1995. Today, there are over 300 fewer budget lines supported by State funds than there were in 1988. Academic departments have been both eliminated and consolidated, and faculty searches have been canceled or postponed. Public service activities have been curtailed, and New York State-related research has been restricted.

Tuition for our New York resident undergraduate students not only is substantially higher than that at the state-operated campuses, it is also the second highest for a land-grant university in the United States. Last fall the entering freshman tuition for a statutory college resident student was $8,490, while that charged to a student attending a state-operated campus was $3,400.

"Lack of state support for central administrative and student-related services at Cornell is the primary reason tuition for the statutory colleges is significantly higher than for SUNY-operated campuses. Analyses of the proportion of tax versus tuition support for student-related programs of the statutory colleges must take into account the tuition retained at Cornell to pay for these central functions and services that the State does not support (such as bursar, registrar and campus security.) Such comparisons must also consider the tuition generated and retained for financial aid, an absolutely essential policy to ensure that we are able to maintain our "need-blind" admission and financial aid program and thereby assure a diverse and representative student body.

"When the tuition burden of statutory college students, as a percentage of instruction and student-related education costs, already exceeds that for students at SUNY-operated campuses, the degree to which they should be expected to pay even higher tuition to contribute proportionately more to SUNY should be limited.

"Cornell's tuition rate for our statutory colleges has moved incrementally upward over the last decade, in contrast to the irregular, draconian increases experienced by the state- operated campuses. We believe this approach has served our students and their families well, providing them with high- quality services while allowing them to plan for university expenses in an orderly and rational manner. "A flexible campus-based tuition policy has worked well for our statutory colleges, but it would be a tragedy if its adoption on an across-the-board basis by the State University system were seen by the legislative and executive branches of state government as an additional excuse for the wholesale and sudden removal of State funds from this extraordinary higher education resource.

As New York State's land-grant university since 1865, Cornell receives both federal and state support for organized research and extension/public service programs that have no parallel in comparable proportion at other SUNY campuses. State support for these two missions constitutes more than half of the state operating appropriation for the four statutory colleges at Cornell; the remaining state support is allocated toward instruction, departmental research and student services. The research and extension functions are not intended nor required to enroll students or generate tuition. As such, their inclusion in comparisons of funding per FTE student, or of ratios of tuition-to-tax-level support, highlights a basic misunderstanding of Cornell's unique, statute-driven mission, and leads to distorted presentations of fact.

"Those functions include operations such as the Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station and its counterpart in Ithaca, as well as the Cornell Cooperative Extension system, neither of which enroll tuition-paying students nor generate tuition revenues. Therefore, when making macro-assessments of what proportion of SUNY operations should be supported by tax funds (as opposed to tuition revenues), these land grant- related research and extension functions must be examined separately and differently, and clearly without expectations of increased tuition support.

"Mr. Chairman, the facts that I have presented are not complicated. The statutory colleges at Cornell, and the College of Ceramics at Alfred, are widely recognized as the best in their fields across the United States, and some would say across the globe. The encouragement and recognition that they have received from the Legislature and the Executive Branch over the years has been most gratifying. You have recognized the importance of these programs in the past, and I ask you to do nothing in the future that would permit their unique status and missions to be modified without thorough analysis.

"It is Cornell's goal to continue to work cooperatively with other campuses across the State University system, whether it be through joint ventures in food science with the colleges of technology, and articulation agreements with the community colleges, or in research partnerships in electronic packaging with SUNY Binghamton, earthquake engineering research at SUNY Buffalo, or marine research and outreach through the joint SUNY-Cornell Sea Grant program.

"Over the last several weeks, we have had frequent and intensive discussions with the State University administrative and trustee leadership concerning the financial issues that they have addressed in the Rethinking SUNY Report. I am quite optimistic that these discussions will lead to a near-term understanding of our common efforts in meeting this year's budget problem, as well as to longer- term agreements concerning our mutual objectives.

"You face a major challenge, Mr. Chairman, as you and the members of your committee evaluate the Rethinking SUNY report, not only in the context of the entire spectrum of higher education programs and institutions throughout the state -- SUNY, CUNY, the independent sector and the proprietary institutions -- but also in light of the State of New York's overall economic, social and cultural needs. We at Cornell pledge to you our assistance in this most important endeavor.

"Thank you for your consideration and attention."

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