The Business Council of New York State supports the provisions contained within Part E of the Article VIII Budget Bill S. 6607/A.9707, commonly referred to as the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.
The budget language will assure SUNY and CUNY are able to become twenty-first century, globally competitive higher education institutions. The provisions will facilitate and promote procurement and operational efficiencies; more effective land use policies; authorize and facilitate public-private partnerships; and provide for more flexible tuition policies by campus and program. This legislation promotes and assures that SUNY and CUNY campuses and central administration are provided with the necessary authority to provide for a world class education for their students, while providing them with pro-active business tools to assure campus leadership is leveraging the opportunities for sustainability and growth.
The Business Council's mission is to create economic growth, good jobs and strong communities across New York State. SUNY and CUNY campuses are important, often vital, players in their regional economies but are often hampered by antiquated business practice rules which limit their ability to participate meaningfully in regional economic development. From burdensome and duplicative contract management procedures, to the ability to engage in joint ventures and public private partnerships – our public institutions of higher education are often unable to leverage the significant public investment in their assets to broader community and regional good. In a state which hosts a wealth of public and private institutions of higher education, these antiquated business practice rules also put our public higher education institutions at a competitive disadvantage to their private higher education counterparts.
The sheer size of SUNY and CUNY require sizeable public investment merely to maintain the infrastructure, thus limiting the opportunity to invest in improved quality and scope of their education programs. With diminished state revenues translating to cuts in operational aid to both SUNY and CUNY, now is the time to be providing the central administration and campus leadership with more effective ways to manage cost-containment, and ways to partner with the private sector to build and diversify revenue streams. These joint ventures and public private partnerships provide meaningful and tangible ways for the private sector to leverage the higher education institution's assets, while providing students and faculty with ways to translate their research and talent into entrepreneurial and private sector growth.
If our public higher education institutions are to be seen as contributors to the planning and growth of the regional economies within which they operate, they must be provided the opportunity to leverage modern methods for construction, contracting, and public-private partnerships. Let's not lose the opportunity in this fiscal crisis to allow the wealth of knowledge within SUNY and CUNY to be leveraged to allow these vital public assets to flourish. All of the modernization aspects contained within this budget language can be enacted with safeguards to ensure appropriate checks and balances are provided, and that students and faculty are not disadvantaged.
For these reasons, The Business Council supports enactment of S. 6607, Part E/A.9707, Part E.