SUNY campuses prepare for 25 percent cut in state aid amid pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on New York’s public universities, which are bracing for a 25 percent cut in state operating aid on top of big revenue losses, The Post has learned.

The 64-campus State University of New York faces a revenue loss between $800 million to $1 billion for the 2020-21 academic year due to COVID-19’s impact on enrollment and other costs to keep campuses safe, a SUNY spokesperson said.

The campus president at the State University at Albany sent a Sept. 17 memo to his administration and faculty saying the campus is grappling with a $59 million deficit and that he anticipates the cut in state operating assistance this year.

“We have been informed to expect a 25% cut in state funding this year which is an $11.9 million loss. While reductions to state support are not yet official, we need to plan for these now, as our one-time cash reserves are being expended in their entirety this year,” said SUNY Albany president Havidid Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the school has “instituted 15% budget-reduction targets for all divisions” and imposed a freeze on hiring and all but essential spending to generate $39 million in savings. He will tap into cash reserves to cover the rest of the shortfall.

One problem Albany U. has encountered during the pandemic is plummeting enrollment from out-of-state and international students. Unlike New York State residents, international students and out-of-state students are not eligible for state tuition relief and therefore pay most if not all of the sticker price for tuition and dorm costs that run roughly $32,000 per semester — a big source of revenue.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has imposed a travel advisory and a mandatory two-week quarantine on visitors to New York who hail from other states with rising coronavirus infection rates to prevent outbreaks here, which may have also impacted enrollment.

“This year we are seeing a 13% drop in out-of-state and a 47% decrease in international students. This represents a tremendous loss for our campus diversity, as well as creating a $4.8 million shortfall,” the president’s memo said.

Consequently, the number of students living in higher cost campus dorms has also cratered during the pandemic, Rodriguez said.