by Jay Tillotson
Another Sunday and another New York State politician on the radio proclaiming economic utopia for WNY and upstate if UB 2020 is passed and implemented. Over the last 30 years I had been led to believe that New York’s and upstate New York’s problems are the result of high taxes (property and income), high utility rates, and excessive regulations. All these have been documented and discussed in the media. When I listen to the excessive number of community leaders who have attached themselves to UB 2020 as this century’s “economic growth” vehicle, I have to remember the stories of “lemmings to the sea” or the Pied Piper.
The promises of tuition predictability is the first question that I have. The public is being led to believe that tuition will be rational, predictable, and affordable. The poor will be helped, but what about the middle class? Dr. Simpson and our elected leaders have promised to use the “higher education price index,” or HEPI, as if this would be a fair. I went to the website of www.commonfund.org which is the location of the data for HEPI. I was surprised to learn the the HEPI percentage increases for 36 of the last 45 years has exceeded the consumer price index (CPI). John Griswold, the executve director of the Commonfund Institute, acknowledges in an explanatory letter that higher education costs rise faster than CPI and that probably means faster than most wages for the middle class. The proposed New York State law allows UB to increase tuition up to two and one half times the HEPI value. I would suggest that anyone who has concerns of affordability look at this website and ask their legislators if they have read the data.
Simpson and the community leaders in business and labor talk about 20,000 trades union jobs being created. If I estimate the total cost of a job at $75,000 a year for salary, retirement, and healthcare, I have to ask where is the $1.5 billion coming from. I hope that New York State is not going to borrow more money when analysts are already commenting the debt service that New York State currently pays. There is also the costs of the projects that they will build. Where is that money coming from?
The community is being promised professional, staff, and clerical jobs at the new UB. Estimates have ranged from 7,000 to more. At the same time New York State is experiencing a budget crisis that is cutting state aid to public education, which means cutting teachers in the schools that our children attend. This could amount to a decline in the quality of education in our communities at the same time that UB is raising its academic standards so it can reach the status of an international research institute. Will Western New York public school students have the quality education that will allow them entrance into UB?
Finally I wish there was some public discussion of what it means legally and financially for a public institution to be taken into a “public-private partnership.” Since the conversion of UB from a private to pubic university the taxpayer has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on UB. Is the public money going down the drain so that a few administrators can capitalize in their salaries on the privatization of a public institution?
Jay Tillotson, Buffalo
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