Today’s news:

SUNY should release $115M to suffering schools: Stavisky

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) demanded more than $100 million in emergency funding be released for state colleges and universities this week, with public schools suffering budget cuts during a weakened economy.

Stavisky, who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, wrote a letter to State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, calling on her to release approximately $115 million in emergency funds set aside to help keep state schools operating on all cylinders during tough times.

“Because of SUNY’s refusal to utilize these balances, many of the campuses are now making substantial cuts and drastic changes in their work forces and operations,” Stavisky said. “All of these actions will have a significant and recurring impact on academic programs, student educational opportunities, timely graduation and student financial assistance.”

A SUNY spokesman said Zimpher had no public statement regarding the situation, but had responded directly to Stavisky, adding she would work with the Queens senator privately on SUNY’s budget issues.

State funding for SUNY was cut by about $40 million last year and the state Legislature told the system of schools to backfill the difference through a supplemental operating fund that contains more than $100 million set aside to offset cuts. Stavisky said SUNY’s reluctance to release the funding has led to unnecessary cuts at individual schools.

“For example, SUNY New Paltz is phasing out the nursing program and graduate programs in math, science and some foreign languages,” Stavisky said. “With a nursing shortage, it is a disservice to students, the community and the state to allow this important program to be eliminated. Now is the time to tap these accounts.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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