Cornell, SUNY and Pataki finally agree on land-grant funding in state budget proposal

Ronald Seeber

After years of effort, Cornell University, the State University of New York (SUNY) and New York Gov. George E. Pataki have worked out an agreement on land-grant funding. Under a new arrangement, money appropriated to Cornell from the state for its federal land-grant responsibilities will be separate from funding allocated by the SUNY system to Cornell for higher education.

The governor's budget proposal, released Jan. 17, sets aside $60 million for Cornell's research and extension services related to the university's land-grant mission. Cornell and SUNY had asked for $73 million.

Last year, Cornell received a total of $135 million from the state, including its funding for land-grant activities. The total funds granted to Cornell this year have yet to be determined.

"This is a positive first step," said Ron Seeber, Cornell's vice provost for land grant affairs. "The governor's proposals are a very good starting point for higher education in the state of New York."

From here, the Legislature will fine-tune the budget before approving it. Cornell will work with SUNY and the Legislature to try to increase the land-grant money to more than $70 million.

In years past, SUNY typically allocated money to all of its campuses based on such factors as student enrollment, amount of external research funding a campus generates and statutory mandates or unique costs for a campus. But these factors were not relevant to Cornell's land-grant mission, and many felt it was not fair to have funds allocated for land grant through a formula for general higher education purposes.

Cornell interim President Hunter R. Rawlings worked closely with new SUNY Chancellor John Ryan to submit a higher education budget to the governor. Ryan aggressively advocated for higher education funding, Seeber said.

The budget also includes funds for a number of contracts to perform such services for the state of New York as an equine drug-testing program and other veterinary medicine services. It also includes $12 million to continue development of an advanced synchrotron radiation X-ray source, called an Energy Recovery Linac. The proposed device will enable investigations of matter that are impossible to perform with existing X-ray sources.

The governor's budget also proposed cuts in the Tuition Assistance Program, New York's largest grant program, which provides up to $5,000 per student in assistance based on the applicant's and family's New York state net taxable income. But, the proposed reductions are likely to be reversed by the Legislature, Seeber said.

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