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UAlbany wants in on Buffalo's 'party'

April 27, 2011
In anticipation of the governor's UB2020/SUNY Empowerment summit in early May, University at Albany President George M. Philip spoke Wednesday before an audience of Capital Region business leaders and local elected officials to address concerns that UAlbany will "not be invited to the party."

The UB2020 bill, a piece of legislation that would endow the University at Buffalo with greater autonomy over its finances, including tuition rates and economic development endeavors, passed with overwhelming support in the Senate and is currently being debated in the Assembly. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has scheduled a summit at the Capitol to discuss the legislation, its impact and how it would be implemented, but those gathered Wednesday in Albany want to ensure they will get to have a voice at the summit.

"There is something happening in our house, but we aren't invited to it," said Michael Castellana, president and CEO of the federal credit union SEFCU, referring to the summit. "There is tentatively a party that is going to be happening with respect to this legislation, UB2020. … Unfortunately, as it stands right now, that is a one-person party. It is specific to the University at Buffalo."

While UB touts its plan as one college and many leaders from the region say could be a major economic stimulus for Western New York, UAlbany has its own projections for what increased autonomy over its own financial initiatives could mean for the school as well as the Capital Region.

According to Philip, granting UAlbany the same authority as UB is seeking would "enable all of us to drive terrific growth in [the Capital Region.]"

"The tuition flexibility will generate significant additional revenue. It will create lots of jobs," Philip said. "As part of our plan, we are going to increase enrollment over the next 10 years, so it's additional revenue from the existing student base plus the value of that added enrollment over the next 10 years that will be the catalyst going forward."

Philip said greater tuition flexibility for the school would lead to "over 2,300 new jobs, attract over $700 million in research funding, invest more than $650 in new capital construction, which would bring our total planned capital construction over that 10-year period to about $1.9 billion."

"We should be fully aware that the University at Albany is one of the centers of economic growth and has been, I believe, an under-recognized center for economic growth in our area for decades," said Castellana. "We need to make sure that we come together to send this message loud and clear that we need the tools and the ability to continue having it be a center for economic growth for us.

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