Less than a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed his commitment to public higher education by launching the Excelsior Scholarships free tuition program, he has undermined the very university system students would attend.
The governor last week vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have required the state to cover the basic cost increases to operate the state's public college and university systems. In rejecting the measure, commonly referred to as "maintenance of effort" legislation, the governor said it would "add hundreds of millions of dollars in increased and unbudgeted costs to the state's financial plan, which will ultimately be shouldered by the state's taxpayers."
The bill's supporters, including 25,000 people who signed a petition sponsored by the SUNY Student Assembly, said the law was necessary to reverse the effects of the "rational tuition plan." That plan, adopted in 2011, allowed the state's public colleges and universities to raise tuition annually. For its part, the state agreed to "maintain its effort" — which was understood to mean that it would not decrease its financial support for SUNY and CUNY.
Yet as tuition rose, the state took its obligation literally, keeping its contribution mostly flat. Mr. Cuomo maintained the dollar amount of the state's support for higher education, but not its proportionate share of the cost. As a result, the student share of SUNY's budget has risen from 41 percent to 64 percent.
Mr. Cuomo's veto last week and the likely increases in college operating costs will ensure that shift in the burden will continue.
As the pressure on the various campuses continues, it creates another dilemma. For students to receive the free tuition, they must complete their degrees in four years. Yet, with the state colleges and universities on what amounts to a starvation diet, some of the course work required for certain degrees is not available every semester, jeopardizing Excelsior Scholarship eligibility.
We appreciate that the governor and lawmakers face difficult choices and the need to set priorities while adjusting to any drop in federal funds.
But to not commit to at least maintaining the state's support of public higher education heralds a continuing struggle for SUNY and CUNY to uphold standards, offer high quality programs, and attract top students and professors.
— The Times Union, Albany
Get a flu shot yet?
If not, you should.
Health officials said last week that the flu is spreading rapidly across the nation, with a dozen states now reporting widespread cases just in time for the holiday season.
Some people scoff at getting a flu shot, often because they've been influenced by myths about the vaccine. Topping that list is the claim that you can catch the flu from the vaccine. Wrong. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can't transmit infection. People who get sick after getting a flu shot were going to get sick anyway.
The Centers for Disease Control say that following the flu shot are usually mild and can include a low grade fever and aches. Other reactions following the flu shot are usually mild and can include a low grade fever and aches. If these reactions occur, the CDC says they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days. The most common reactions people have to flu vaccine are considerably less severe than the symptoms caused by actual flu.
Health officials say this year's flu vaccine seems well matched to the viruses making people sick, but it's still too early to tell how bad this season will be.
By late last week, the New York state Health Department said flu is now prevalent in New York state, which means health care workers who haven't had a flu shot must wear procedural masks around patients. Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says everyone over 6 months old is encouraged to get a flu shot as soon as possible. He says the vaccine is especially important for people at high risk of complications from flu, including children under 2, pregnant women and adults over 65.
As a precaution, Mohawk Valley Health Systems officials announced new visiting guidelines for the Level II Special Care Nursery at the St. Luke's Campus of the Mohawk Valley Health System. Babies in the nursery are at greater risk of complications from the flu, they said in a news release, and therefore only visitors 12 years old and older may visit at this time. The hospital asks that if someone who visits feels ill with any type of upper respiratory problem that they stay home to keep themselves and the babies safe.
— The Observer-Dispatch, Utica
Take heart, New Yorkers: You're not the only ones put off by Mayor Bill de Blasio's delusions of grandeur.
Turns out his dream of becoming the national spokesman for the Democratic Party's hard left has even many of his friends and allies — not to mention fellow mayors — rolling their eyes.
According to a devastating article on Politico, de Blasio's own aides create distractions and deliberately stall when the mayor presses them for more national events to raise his national image.
De Blasio is so anxious to become the national face of the anti-Trump "resistance" that during a private strategy session at last summer's Conference of Mayors, he actually proposed that cities refuse to take any infrastructure money from Washington as an act of defiance.
Was he off his rocker? New York is desperate for funds — for the subways, a new Hudson River rail tunnel and other pressing projects. Yet de Blasio would turn down that money to make a statement?
No wonder the response, Politico reports, was "eye-rolling" and "frustration."
And that's exactly how every New Yorker should react to their mayor's apparent willingness to work against the city's interests — just to boost his national profile.
Other Democratic leaders, speaking off the record, reportedly called de Blasio "smug," ''annoying" and "in it for himself." Hey, tell us about it.
The mayor bristles at suggestions that his national ambitions have gone nowhere, comparing himself to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Mahatma Gandhi — all of whom, he maintained, "had setbacks."
Gee, he sure thinks highly of himself to place himself among such figures, doesn't he?
— The New York Post