SUNY is the answer. That was the essential thought of Rep. Maurice Hinchey when he was running for re-election in 2010. Any question posed to him about what he was doing to help with jobs in the Southern Tier garnered a response about earmarks. Rep. Hinchey gave to SUNY Binghamton many earmarks over the years. He planned to give many millions more in earmarks in the future. Such comments seemed to be good enough to gain him re-election.
SUNY is also part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to right the sinking State economy. Research is the product that New York will commoditize under Gov. Cuomo. It is the engine that the State hopes can drive job growth.
“To realize the governor’s call to be New York’s economic engine, we must be committed to SUNY’s capacity to innovate and expand our marketable research,” states [State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher] prepared remarks.
Part of that plan will include competition between the 64 SUNY campuses, rewarding those that excel in research awards or graduation and retention rates, student course completion, diversity of students and faculty, and programs that address work force shortages and the needs of emerging industries. Campuses that are better than their peers would land more aid in those areas, though all campuses are expected to gain in at least 1 area based on the design. In essence, a campus can improve their funding, or decrease it, but they cannot lose all aid even if they are a complete mess.
Other parts of the plan revealed by Nancy Zimpher include increasing students’ access to classes so they can complete degrees on time, seamless transfers between campuses, several efficiencies through the Internet, and expanding SUNY’s global reach for students. SUNY will also hit up alumni for research and private partnerships to increase revenues and help the state create 40,000 private sector jobs.
Some politicians have a very positive outlook on SUNY and its potential. Including Assemblywoman Lupardo, who is a member of the Higher Education Committee.
“At a time when SUNY is viewed as an important economic driver in communities, especially in Upstate, we need to ensure that they have the necessary resources. Through teamwork, innovative approaches to funding and shared services, Chancellor Zimpher believes that SUNY can thrive in spite of the state’s economic challenges.” – Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Jan 19, 2011
It all sounds quite bright and cheerful, but a nagging thought remains for us. Marketable research and/or 40,000 jobs will not resolve the State budget deficit, nor improve the statewide job market. Like the earmarks that Rep. Hinchey and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have pumped into SUNY Binghamton, research jobs and aid grants help keep things mostly stable, but not improving. For all the millions of dollars in earmarks poured into SUNY Binghamton in 2009 and 2010, you need only walk along main street in Downtown Binghamton to see that jobs are not growing.
We are all for research based jobs, as any new jobs help the State economy. Competition among the SUNY campuses can only benefit the 467,000 students, as well as the State. But the reality remains that New York State has an economic environment that is killing jobs. We have taxation plans that are driving away the population. What is needed are jobs that the average New Yorker can do, jobs where a tangible product is either made or transported and hopefully both.
The meat an potatoes of job growth and a healthy economy has never been found in earmarks that only serve to make politicians look good to special interest groups. Research is great, but eventually must be turned into real world something to be of any use. Thus tax cuts, for corporations and individuals, coupled with harsh and definitive spending stoppages are the only real solution. Everything else is effectively just buying time to pass the problem along to someone else.
For 50 years New York has been trying to re-invent the wheel. For 50 years New York State has lost in that re-invention. Perhaps it’s time to just try some old school basics.
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