Don’t Punish Private Colleges

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Bundy ActThere are 13 private colleges and universities on Long Island. I am sure you have heard such names as Hofstra, Adelphi, LIU Post, Molloy, St. Johns, NYIT and some smaller ones such as St Joseph’s, Webb Institute and Five Towns College. All of them provide programs and opportunities that are not always available at the State University system. On Long Island private institutions are an economic generator employing thousands and adding over $3 billion to the local economy.

For some strange and unexplained reason, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest proposed budget declares war on all of the state’s 131 private schools. The war is in the form of the elimination of a program known as Bundy Aid. Last year, the state’s 131 private colleges were given $35.13 million in aid. The Bundy moneys are primarily used for student aid and scholarships. A college doesn’t get any funds unless the students graduate so it is an incentive to colleges to work hard to keep students in college and earning a degree.

There is no doubt that the state has a number of serious financial challenges this year. Some say the state has a $4 billion deficit, but having been the past Chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, I think that number is somewhat exaggerated. When there is a serious state fiscal problem cuts have to be made and it is the job of the three Albany leaders to cut programs. But Bundy Aid is the lifeblood of all of the private schools, especially those in upstate New York.

If private colleges in five or six small upstate towns shut down there is a strong possibility that those towns will experience a massive layoff of teachers and staff. In simple terms, if the small private college shuts down that is the end of the town. Here on Long Island this special aid amounts to big dollars. A college such as Hofstra University would lose $787,009 in funds for student aid. I know that for a fact as I have been a trustee at the University for over 25 years.

Private colleges and universities face enormous challenges in the current national climate. The newly passed Trump tax plan goes after students and the schools. The Congress has chosen to attack college endowments, which are primarily used for student aid. Students in debt have also become a target. The conservative wing of the Republican Party has decided that all colleges are “too liberal” and they must be punished. The same politicians who rail against the colleges are the same ones who want to be on a graduation platform so their constituents can see and hear them.

Our private colleges and universities do an excellent job in the face of rising costs and government vendettas. Hopefully, our elected state officials from this region will fight to save Bundy Aid from the chopping block. If the funds go away the rising costs of college will be passed on to many who cannot afford it. Bundy Aid was a promise made to our private colleges and universities at the same time that the state system was being expanded. Where I come from a promise is a promise, regardless of how old the promise is.

Former State Assemblyman Jerry Kremer is a partner at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.

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