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North country SUNY Campuses diverge on budget model response

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POTSDAM - It is a tale of two SUNYs.

Campuses at Potsdam and Canton are responding differently to a proposed model that would change the way funds are distributed among State University of New York schools.

At SUNY Potsdam, the response is one of relief and optimism, while SUNY Canton representatives are uncertain how the model would affect them.

SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller recently told his college council the budget model as it is now proposed will not have as much of a negative impact on his campus as once predicted.

“I am confident we will be able to implement this new model without significant impact on our state allotment,” he said.

At a September college council meeting, Mr. Schwaller said the model would cost the school $2.72 million in funding due to its focus on graduate education and federally funded research. SUNY Potsdam has experienced a decline in graduate enrollment in recent years.

Now, Mr. Schwaller believes that a three-year roll-out period combined with plans to expand Potsdam’s graduate programs will spare his school the brunt of the change.

“The enrollments will be shifting each year,” he said. “The enrollment piece would have cost us about $1.7 million, but we are confident we will see a stabilization in our graduate enrollment.”

Mr. Schwaller said the school is shifting more personnel to graduate recruitment as it looks to expand the number of master’s degree programs it offers. SUNY Central has promised assistance through the interim, he said.

“SUNY Central has pledged their support through one-time allotments,” he said. “We hope to see an increase in state support as we improve our enrollment.”

At SUNY Canton, college council members are responding to the model with caution.

“It appears the new resource allocation model shifts funds away from technical and comprehensive campuses to the university centers,” said college council Chairman Ronald M. O’Neill.

Since Canton has grown from a two-year technical college to a four-year university, with enrollment swelling to more than 3,800 this fall from around 2,100 in 2000, it could see an increase in its state funding, said Brian G. Hutzley, SUNY vice chancellor for financial services.

“Under the current model, you have more students paying tuition but you aren’t getting your fair share of state funds,” he said. “Canton, because of what it has done over the last 10 years, is going to have an above-average outcome.”

Mr. O’Neill has complained that he doesn’t know the model’s effect on SUNY Canton due to a lack of information from Chief Financial Officer Natalie L. Higley.

“I do know from the trustees discussion at the Administration and Finance Committee meeting last week that there have apparently been several different versions showing the impact campus by campus, so it appears the answers do exist, at least in draft form,” he said.

Mr. O’Neill is concerned SUNY Central might cap his campus’s enrollment growth, jeopardizing funding in the future.

“Why would you want to limit enrollment growth when the reason for proposing combining our two campuses was low enrollment?” he said.

Though the SUNY Board of Trustees Finance and Administration Committee recently discussed the proposal, it took no action on two resolutions in support of the resource allocation model in its meeting last week.

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