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Stony Brook Univ. submits economic development plan

Stony Brook’s plan for the NYSUNY 2020 grant includes the creation of a cancer patient care and research center, which would create 4,200 construction jobs. Photo by Courtesy of Stony Brook University.
June 06, 2011
A new cancer patient care and research center is hoped to be

created at Stony Brook University with NYSUNY 2020 grant funding, the university revealed at its presentation last week, which also featured some of the same legislative requests made by the University at Buffalo the previous week.

In the second of four challenge grant program plan presentations, the Long Island SUNY research university requested the same 8 percent tuition increase the University at Buffalo requested from the Legislature while assuring concerned legislators that a financial aid plan would be put in place for students whose families make less than $75,000 a year.

Participating in a roundtable discussion with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Gov. Andrew Cuomo listened to speakers from the university and local business leaders as they made their pitch to win up to $35 million Stony Brook is eligible for under the administration's NYSUNY 2020 challenge grant program.

According to Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley, the grant would allow the university to jump start the construction of a cancer patient care and research center.

The center would serve as a patient care location that would also provide students with research experience. The new center could be expected to double the Stony Brook University Medical Center's outpatient cancer care services and enhance inpatient cancer care on Long Island. Additional revenue would be invested in the hiring of 245 new faculty, 368 staff and graduate students and 80 new clinicians.

"The [cancer patient care and research center's] academic benefits are numerous," said Stanley. "Undergraduate students will have greater work-study opportunities in cancer center labs. Medical school residents will have more opportunities to practice at a specialized care center. And it will expand research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students, medical students, residents."

The construction of the center would also create 4,200 construction jobs, university officials say.

Stony Brook representatives voiced their support for a rational annual tuition increase of 5 percent for all SUNY campuses with an additional 3 percent annual increase for the system's four research institutions over the course of a five-year period. New York state undergraduate students at Stony Brook currently pay slightly more than $6,500 a year for tuition and fees.

University at Buffalo's plan also included a request for the Legislature to approve an 8 percent annual rational tuition increase over the course of a seven-year period, which Buffalo officials said would amount to approximately $200 in additional tuition per student per semester.

Stanley compared Stony Brook to Penn State, both of which are in the Association of American Universities. Stony Brook's tuition and fees are 56 percent lower than Penn State's, he said.

"We are asking for rational, predictable increments to invest in our campuses to benefit our students," Stanley said. "If you're asking why it makes sense to have a higher tuition at Stony Brook than other university centers, the answer is simple. Research universities are more expensive to operate. To conduct the kind of research that leads to life-altering discoveries, research universities have to have state-of-the art laboratories, extensive, up-to-date libraries, high-tech equipment that has to be maintained and kept current, specialized equipment, particularly in areas like imaging technology, and, of course, most importantly, … world-class research scientists and staff who command higher salaries."

According to the president, under the proposed rational tuition increases, Stony Brook would only be at the median rate of tuition costs of the Association of American Universities institutions.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-Brooklyn, joining the meeting via telephone as he did for the UB presentation a week before, said he is "strongly behind" the university's plan.

"Kids are raised on Long Island who want to stay," Schumer said. "If they can find decent paying jobs that allow them to stay, they want to stay."

Silver commended the region's delegates for creating a plan that is "consistent with our belief that the university should be the engine of economic growth in our state" but once again stressed his belief that public universities should be affordable to all students.

"We believe that there should be a modest increase in tuition," Silver said. "Our difficulty is making sure, number one, that all students have the same opportunities, that students don't make a determination as to what they want to do in their lives based on the costs of various programs. … A degree in dentistry or pharmacy should not become the sole province of wealthier students."

Skelos, who represents a district on Long Island, commended the Stony Brook representatives and stressed that economic development "builds out from our university systems."

"We've seen a bit of a 'brain-drain' on Long Island. It's always been my position that in order to bring Long Island back, you need, number one, to make it more affordable. And certainly, the actions of this Legislature are going to help to do that," Skelos said. "We are going to work very closely to make this a reality."

The university's plan must now be reviewed by the Legislature, which will decide what actions need to be taken. If legislation is passed that would allow the plan to go forward, it would then have to be reviewed by Zimpher as well as the Empire State Development Corp. board for final approval in order for the school to receive the challenge grant funding.

Cuomo called Stony Brook's plan "innovative" and said it "has the potential to rejuvenate Long Island."

"I am committed to the project and will make sure that my administration concentrates their efforts in making this a reality. Stony Brook's plan of action addresses the major issues on Long Island and throughout the state," Cuomo said. "It will use public-private partnerships to create thousands of jobs, as well as reinvigorate the business climate across Nassau and Suffolk counties. In addition, it will ensure that Stony Brook becomes one of the country's most advanced public research facilities."

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    All For It
    June 08, 2011 | 12:01 PM

    I hope that this plan gets the wholehearted support of all of Long Island's delegation in Albany along with the rest of the Legislature and Senate. Stony Brook is a jewel in Suffolk County and has the potential to lead the economic re-birth of the area if wise, forward-looking decisions are made.

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