A Peek Beyond The Horizon

As there is growing tension regarding increases in tuition, it is important to know that there are certain services and facilities on-campus that are not covered by tuition costs from every student.

Campus construction and maintenance is funded by money allocated in the New York State budget for the SUNY system. With the exception of residence halls, all new buildings and all renovations are paid for mostly from that budget.

John Shupe, assistant vice president for facilities management, said the majority of funds for on-campus construction come from the state budget’s “capital plan” and most of that money is dedicated to “critical maintenance.” This money cannot be used for new construction, like the New Science Building, but does cover large maintenance projects on already existing structures, like the Sojourner Truth Library renovations.

The 2015–16 capital budget plan has $200 million set aside for critical maintenance of SUNY facilities, and an additional $55 million from the SUNY 2020 initiative.

In SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s  2015–16 Executive Budget Testimony, released on Feb. 10, she asked that this number be tripled to $600 million a year for the next five years.

The five-year model is important because construction projects generally take two to three years of planning before ground is broken and knowing how much money is available is a crucial element of that planning.

Shupe said that while current projects are already completely funded, new projects like renovations to the Smiley Arts Building and the Elting Gym, are on hold because of a decrease in funding. The Smiley renovations are estimated to cost $83 million and involve adding a wing to the building to house the photography and graphic design departments currently located in the Old Library. The $35 million Elting Gym project would result in a new or renovated pool.

He said that after asking SUNY for $50 million for on-campus maintenance, we are likely to receive only $5 million.

The capital budget is not the only way that projects get funded, another way to get money for new projects is through legislative items. This requires lobbying at the state legislative level and is very project-specific and the money does not come from the capitol plan, according to Shupe, who cited the Student Union Atrium as an example of a project funded by this initiative.

Considering not all SUNY campuses are residential, residence halls support themselves with money from student’s room fees, according to Shupe.

Shupe said residence halls are funded by a bond, normally 15 or 30 years, which is paid back by room fees. This means the construction of new dorms like Ridgeview Hall do not cost current students any additional money because it is adding rooms and therefore adding revenue to pay back the bond.

However, Shupe said, when renovations are needed for existing residence hall rooms, like the upcoming work to be done on Bevier Hall, the student fee may go up because no rooms are being created and the money must come from somewhere.

Lastly, Shupe noted there is money set aside by the state for emergency situations.