Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) gathers around the table during a meeting. USG aims to take 75 students to a protest in Albany on Higher Education Action Day and will cover the cost. SAMANTHA ROBINSON/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is planning to cover the costs to bring 75 students to a SUNY and CUNY-wide protest in Albany on Thursday, Feb 27.

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff from both the SUNY and CUNY systems are expected to meet with New York legislators to ask for more funding on Higher Education Action Day.

“I know that the governor, at least I think, is making strides towards trying to accommodate students and trying to listen to what a lot of the issues have been, but there’s always a lot more,” Carlos Cobo, senior political science major at SBU and USG chief of staff, said.

The 2019 Executive Budget recommended $10.7 billion for SUNY and $4.6 billion for CUNY, while the 2020 Executive Budget recommends $11.1 billion for SUNY and $4.7 billion for CUNY

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USG President Shaheer Khan believes that higher education needs more funding. 

“If the university gets more money from the state, then they’ll be able to put it towards all these resources that are critical for student success,” he said, listing psychological counseling, infrastructure and programs such as the Educational Opportunity Program and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, as examples.

During the Feb. 3 University Senate Meeting at SBU, attendees unanimously supported a resolution calling for more funding. 

“SUNY UFS calls on Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to make New York State a national leader in sustainably and equitably supporting and advancing SUNY and CUNY’s core academic missions,” the resolution read. 

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The resolution calls for full funding for mandatory operating cost increases. According to the New Deal Resolution for SUNY and CUNY, the 2020 Executive Budget doesn’t provide money for utilities, building rentals, equipment and supplies. 

The resolution also calls to close the Tuition Assistance Program Gap (TAP Gap) — the difference between the cost of tuition and the amount of TAP funding that campuses are allowed to provide students — by fixing the maximum TAP award to SUNY tuition and creating the SUNY/CUNY Supplemental TAP Awards. 

“The TAP Gap and the underfunding of SUNY threaten students’ access to education and their ability to graduate,” an overview of the TAP Gap by the United University Professions said. Public colleges have lost $700 million since 2012 due to the gap and lost $139 million from 2018-19.

Fixing the Excelsior Scholarship award to SUNY tuition and simplifying the award’s eligibility requirements is another called mission. As the award’s income limit is currently $125,000, additional state funding would be needed to serve the expected increase in enrollment, according to the New Deal Resolution.

“The key part is that under the resolution, we are essentially asking the governor and the legislature to meet our asks, in terms of support for higher education both CUNY and SUNY,” Nancy Tomes, University Senate president and distinguished professor of history, said at the meeting. 

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Higher Education Action Day will begin with a group rally and a review of the priorities and concerns that students want to bring up with legislators. Afterwards, students will break off into smaller groups and meet with their representative legislators, whether the students are from Queens or Long Island. 

Khan explained that representation of students in specific districts is something that he wants to stress to politicians and lawmakers, to show how diverse the student population is. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity to amplify the student voice through the halls of the New York State Legislator and ensure that student concerns are at the forefront of advocacy this legislative season,” Khan said. 

Cobo said that Stony Brook is a school with a lot of different issues that are not only vocalized in the SUNY Student Assembly but also to the governor, chancellor and the SUNY Board of Trustees. 

“Stony Brook has had some of the biggest breakthroughs, not only in science, but also in a lot of societal aspects that a lot of other SUNY centers want to follow the path in,” he said. “Having Stony Brook there is necessary.” 

Khan explained that the goal is to bring 75 students from Stony Brook University to the protest. Buses will leave at 5 a.m. and students should be back on campus around 8 p.m. 

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“New York State continues to be a national leader in higher education, and with further critical investment in SUNY, we can provide students with a high quality education at an affordable cost — and ensure our Stony Brook students and alumni have the tools and skills to achieve their goals,” Rick Gatteau, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said.

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