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New York state budget 'best in 20 years' for higher education, say Cornell officials

To the delight of Cornell administrators, the New York State Legislature passed the $120.6 billion state budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year on April 1. The funding, say the campus leaders, was excellent for the state's higher education institutions and Cornell in particular. Tax dollars accounted for $51.6 billion of this year's budget, which was submitted as a proposal by Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Jan. 31.

"It was a very good year," agreed Charles Kruzansky, Cornell's director of the Office of Government Affairs. "Funding to programs across the board was either stable, or there were healthy increases. It was the best budget in 20 years."

Total State University of New York (SUNY) operating funds soared to $7.09 billion from $6.56 billion last year. A portion of the SUNY money is appropriated for Cornell's land-grant activities and the contract colleges -- the College of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology. These colleges received $167.7 million compared with $156.1 million last year.

"For the second straight year, the statutory colleges received an increase in funding from the state of New York," said Ronald Seeber, vice provost for land grant affairs. "These increases are welcome and have eased the financial pressures faced by the four colleges."

In addition, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) county offices will benefit from a $500,000 increase, bringing statewide CCE funding to $4.2 million this year.

Student financial-aid programs have all been maintained at current levels with a 3 percent increase for funding and tutoring of underrepresented minority students through the Office of State Programs.

The budget also contains $21 million for Cornell's research and outreach programs, separate from SUNY funds, for specific programs and activities for research, extension and education across the university, from nanotechnology to agricultural education. Last year, Cornell received close to $21 million for the same purposes. Cornell President David Skorton had met with top legislative and executive branch officials in Albany during budget negotiations. In addition to advocating for Cornell programs, student financial aid and higher education, Skorton offered Cornell's assistance in the form of resources and expertise on a range of education, technological and public health issues.

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