Two state lawmakers are “dismayed” by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to designate two SUNY university centers as flagship institutions, while excluding two others.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, and State Sen. Frederick Akshar, R-Endwell, have raised concerns over the governor’s State of the State proposal to designate SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Stony Brook as “flagship” destinations, while excluding SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Albany from that designation.
Hochul said during her January 5 State of the State that the “flagship” designation and state support would drive a goal for Buffalo and Stony Brook to achieve $1 billion annually in primarily federal research funding by 2030, more than double their current levels of research expenditures.
This would put Buffalo and Stony Brook among the current top 20 public universities nationally in research expenditures. Her goal is for these two campuses to become national leaders on other metrics as well, such as economic development and growth in jobs fueled by research and development; expanded and diversified student enrollment and improved graduation rates; greater innovation; and service to the community and state.”
In her State of the State plan, Hochul announced $102 million for a new academic building for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University at Buffalo and $100 million in funding to construct a multidisciplinary engineering building at Stony Brook.
In her speech, Hochul made mention of plans to support the Albany and Binghamton campuses as well, aiming for each to achieve annual research funds of $500 million in annual research funding. However, Hochul’s plan does not currently mention new or additional funding to these two campuses.
Leaving Binghamton and Albany out of the new “flagship” status could put those campuses at a disadvantage in terms of research grants and student recruitment, the lawmakers said.
In their Jan. 24 letter to Hochul, Lupardo and Akshar expressed concern that this decision could negatively impact SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Albany’s standings, despite Binghamton’s high graduation rate and recent growth in enrollment.
“Given the incredible reputation of Binghamton University, we were dismayed by the proposal to designate Buffalo and Stony Brook ‘flagship institutions,’ while classifying Binghamton University and the University at Albany in a lower tier by de facto,” Akshar and Lupardo wrote. “All four University Centers are R1 research institutions on the forefront of global research.”
An R1 university, according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, is a doctoral university ranked as having “very high research activity.”
The lawmakers say there is shared sense by alumni, current faculty, and students, that this proposal would put Binghamton and Albany at a “real disadvantage in terms of research dollars and the recruitment of top students.”
The letter points out that several state lawmakers are Binghamton alum, including Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, state senators John Liu and John Mannion; and state Assembly members Marianne Buttenschon, Robert Carroll, Anna Kelles, Dan Quart, Michael Tannouis and Monica Wallace.
The letter to Hochul notes that Binghamton University consistently receives the highest rankings of any of the SUNY schools in multiple publications. BU also boasts the highest graduation rate — 72 percent for four years; 82 percent for six years — and largest growth in enrollment of the four university centers since 2010, at 21.84 percent.
Lupardo and Akshar say they are not opposed to the “flagship” idea per se, but they “respectfully request” that if the SUNY system continues down this path, that all four University Centers receive this designation, or none at all.
“The research focus of each center is equally impressive and should be held up as such,” their letter states. “They also share a research eco-system that could be negatively impacted by a perceived tiered system. The ramifications would likely affect more than the institutions themselves.”
Lupardo and Akshar’s letter was also sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah Stanley.