Higher Education

New York’s finalized budget sees record education spending


After a lengthy legislative process that attracted protests and media attention, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators announced a finalized 2017 fiscal year budget that includes a significant education funding increase.


As Syracuse Media Group reported, the state is allocating around $24.8 billion for public K-12 schools, an increase of $1.5 billion or 6.5 percent over the previous year. The final increase was a compromise between the $961 million Cuomo initially proposed in January and the $2.13 billion the state legislature requested.


A significant portion of the school funding – $75 million – will be used to expand the number of community schools in districts identified as high-need. According to The Buffalo News, community schools are defined as those providing additional services for students and their family members, including access to mental health professionals, legal counseling and social workers. Speaking with the news outlet, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said the $75 million in funds are designed to increase the number of community schools and help these institutions provide “any social service you need to make for a better life for you and your children.”


“The budget funds additional community schools, which offer social services to students and their families.”

Existing public schools may be transitioned to this model, which will involve extending their hours to offer these services before and after the regular school day. This is expected to increase costs associated with keeping the buildings open longer, as well as compensation for personnel needed to coordinate the programs.


Additionally, the new budget gets rid of the GAP Elimination Adjustment reductions in school aid. The GEA, a plan first introduced in the 2010-2011 fiscal year to address a $10 billion budget deficit created during the recession, was a way of slowly deducting state aid from school districts. However, as Syracuse Media Group noted, some districts lost as much as $13 million in state funding since the GEA was introduced, and several schools lost around $2 million in funds in one fiscal year.


In a statement released by the governor’s office, the administration heralded the new budget for its reforms to education funding.


“We’re cutting taxes for the middle class, making record investments in education with $1.4 billion in new funding, turning failing schools into community schools, and ending the GEA in New York once and for all because we believe that our tomorrows can be better than our yesterdays,” the governor’s office said.


No tuition increases for higher education
In addition to the funding for K-12, higher education also received $7.2 billion in funding under the new budget, a 2 percent increase from last year’s levels. However, lawmakers also decided not to reauthorize SUNY2020, the program that allowed the State University of New York system to raise tuition by 30 percent over the last five years.


As NBC affiliate WGRZ reported, tuition for incoming in-state freshman was $6,470 a year as of fall 2015, an increase of $300 from the previous year. While the new budget freezes tuition increases for in-state students for at least one year, state universities, including SUNY and City University of New York schools, would still be allowed to raise out-of-state tuition.


“Lawmakers froze SUNY2020, which had enabled a 30 percent tuition increase in the last five years.”

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said the increased funding and tuition freeze represents a compromise between university administrators and lawmakers.


“We are proud that the final agreement not only includes these longstanding priorities of our conference but also makes significant investments in our public education system, community schools, and struggling schools while holding the line on tuition increases at our SUNY and CUNY institutions,” Heastie said.


As The Journal News reported, the SUNY and CUNY systems will receive about $85 million in direct state aid and $300 million for infrastructure projects, though this is likely less than administrators were hoping for. In a statement, SUNY called SUNY2020 “critical legislation” and added “providing a world-class education costs money.”


SUNY officials, including Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, previously appeared before the state legislature to argue for the continued use of what Zimpher called “rational” tuition increases that allowed campuses to improve infrastructure and educational opportunities.


However, while administrators pushed for continuation of tuition increases, SUNY and CUNY students reacted differently. As the Journal reported, students at several SUNY campuses held walkouts to protest continuation of SUNY2020 while lawmakers were debating the budget.


How Questica can help
Annual state budgets often spell big financial changes for education. Whether facing funding increases or revenue restrictions, schools need granular insight into their finances to adjust to changes in their state funding.


With Questica’s K-12 and Higher Education budgeting tools, schools can easily access real-time data and efficient workflows to improve accuracy and collaboration across departments while adjusting spending.


With Questica’s Operating Budget platform, administrators can analyze and manage their budget on a monthly, quarterly, trimester or annual basis, breaking down spending by line item to identify expenses and funding sources. With unlimited forecasting, Questica can be used to forecast budgets for multiple future periods, while easily comparing hypothetical spending scenarios with previous years.


With the Capital Budget and Salary/Position Planning platforms, Questica helps schools plan for implementing improvements with their new funding while also accurately tracking costs associated with positions and employees. Questica’s Performance module provides tools for tracking how spending is aligning with the school’s goals and its efforts to improve the quality of education for its students.


Public education institutions tackling funding changes should contact Questica to learn how education budgeting software can help with sounder financial decisions.