January 7, 2012
Colleges ponder Cuomo’s challenge grants
SUNY Cortland president suggests area schools join forces in $60 million funding competition
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Students walk near Old Main on the SUNY Cortland campus in this 2009 photo. The governor is offering SUNY schools $60 million in a funding competition that will award three $20 million grants to the winning schools.
A college would need a plan already in hand to have any chance at one of the three $20 million challenge grants announced this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for the 60 other campuses besides the four university centers.
But one approach could be splitting a grant among several campuses, with one campus serving as the host for it, said SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum.
“I want to host a regional meeting, so we could take a regional approach to this,” Bitterbaum said Thursday.
The challenge grants encourage colleges to find ways to stimulate the local and state economy.
The four university centers competed for such grants last year. Cuomo said now the four-year arts colleges, two-year colleges and the contract colleges attached to Cornell University and Alfred University could compete for funds.
Bitterbaum said colleges with a plan already in the works could have an advantage.
He thought SUNY Institute of Technology in Marcy and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse would have such plans already.
But he agreed that a grant split among several colleges might fit one of Cuomo’s favorite themes: shared services and consolidation. He thought distance learning networks could be one use for such a grant.
Overall, Bitterbaum said he was glad to hear Cuomo speak so enthusiastically about the SUNY system. The governor called it a jewel of New York state.
“The challenge grants are a very generous offer and should do a lot to move our economy,” he said.
Carl Haynes, president of Tompkins Cortland Community College, said he was unsure of how the challenge grants would work but likes Bitterbaum’s idea if it is compatible with what Cuomo has in mind.
Haynes said projects that help students make the transition from high school to college or develop online learning materials, such as electronic textbooks, would be worth submitting for the grants.
He said it was encouraging to hear Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who spoke before Cuomo, say that community colleges are essential to New York’s future.
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