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November 14, 2009

Reporter's Notebook: SUNY student voices heard in Albany

More than 14,000 students signed petitions opposing further cuts to the State University of New York system proposed in the state budget, student organizers said.

In the statewide campaign, "Many Voices, One SUNY," the Student Assembly of the State University delivered the petitions to the office of Gov. David A. Paterson this week, according to a media release.

The 14,000 signatures were collected through student-led rallies at 17 SUNY campuses within the past two weeks, the Student Assembly release said. Students also made on-the-spot calls to their state lawmakers, urging them to support state funding to the SUNY system.

Students at campuses in Oneonta, Binghamton, Cobleskill and Albany were among the participants.

"The governor must recognize the importance of public higher education to the future of New York state,'' Cariann Quick, director of government relations for the Student Assembly, said in the release. ``If he cuts SUNY, he may as well cut any chance this state has to see success.''

SUNY funding previously was cut by $90 million in state aid, and the governor proposed additional multimillion dollar cuts in a proposed deficit reduction plan that students said will negatively affect the Tuition Assistance Program and other programs.

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Hartwick College's three-year program to earn a bachelor's degree has gained attention in the national media.

In a Newsweek magazine article last month, Lamar Alexander, U.S. senator from Tennessee, described the program as a ``forward-looking'' measure to help families and students cut costs.

While many colleges have turned to significant cuts and struggled with financial aid, Hartwick is "rethinking the old way of doing things and questioning decades-old assumptions about what a college degree means," wrote Alexander, a former president of the University of Tennessee and U.S. Secretary of Education.

A media release from Hartwick said 20 students are in the program, which features a 25 percent reduction in tuition costs.

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