Meeting in the state capital’s ceremonial Red Room, Governor Andrew Cuomo and a committee including figures such as Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., Sen. Kenneth P. Lavalle and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher convened on June 1 to discuss the SUNY 2020 initiative, a set of plans aimed at using the four SUNY University Centers at Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook to spur economic and academic growth within New York State.
The initiative begins with the awarding of a $35 million challenge grant to each University Center after the submission and presentation of a long-term detailed economic and academic plan. For Stony Brook, the first year of the plan will be supplemented by a $200 per semester tuition increase that will infuse additional revenue into the university. Under the additional revenue generated by the plan, the university hopes to hire 245 new faculty, 368 new staff members, and 80 new clinicians, in addition to creating 1,000 jobs through research partnerships.
“It is a vision for academic excellence, economic growth, and improved student access and state of the art healthcare for patients,” Stanley said. “It also provides Stony Brook University with an opportunity to take what is already a first class institution and make it into a world class institution, and everyone involved will benefit, including most importantly, our students.”
Kevin S. Law, president of the Long Island Association, the largest business organization on Long Island, said that his association recently found that every 10 jobs in the university, which is the single largest site employer on Long Island, support another seven jobs in the region.
“So as Stony Brook’s economic health goes, so to does the economic health of Long Island — the two are inextricably linked,” said Law, who is also the chairman of Stony Brook University Council.
The plan’s most ambitious undertaking may be the eight-story, 250,000 sq. ft Medical and Research Translation (MART) building to be built adjacent to the hospital and slated to start construction in fall 2013. Stanley and other proponents of the plan hope to finance the $194 million project by matching and eventually exceeding the state challenge grant. The building, which will house cancer treatment services, 25 cancer research laboratories, and classrooms for students will also more than double Stony Brook’s outpatient care services. According to a university press release, the building will create 4,200 direct and indirect construction jobs.
“Stony Brook University is the largest hospital in Suffolk County, and we take care of the sickest patients in the region,” Stanley said. “At Stony Brook Medical Center we take care of 83,000 cancer and radiology patients each year, but there are many we are not taking care of.”
However, some may worry that tuition increases may drive away students from poor economic backgrounds. Though Stony Brook University boasts a place among the cheapest schools in the Association of American Universities, a 62-member organization of the country’s top public and private research universities, its tuition history has been plagued with sudden spikes in cost that in Stanley’s words cause “uncertainty that is detrimental to students, families, and our universities.” Under SUNY2020, Stony Brook University will gain the ability to increase financial assistance for eligible students from families with incomes of less than $75,000 and implement stable and predictable tuition programs to reduce the incidence of sudden tuition hikes.
“A degree in dentistry or pharmacy should not become the sole province of wealthier students,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said. “So we believe there should be a modest increase in tuition.”
Cuomo congratulated Stanley and the others in attendance at the presentation, including Jim Simons, former chair of the university math department, Bob Catell, chairman of Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Center, Jimmy Castellane, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades council, and Cheryl Hamilton, director of the Equal Opportunity Program, or EOP, on “an exciting effort to rejuvenate Stony Brook and bring it up to world class status.”
“We are very excited for this initiative,” Cuomo said. “It puts together the two greatest needs for the state, economic development, creating jobs on a regional basis, using SUNY and the SUNY system as an economic generator, and increasing the academic mission of the SUNY institutions at the same time.”