New York College Spends Millions Lobbying Lawmakers For Tuition Hikes

By @katierucke |
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    The campus of University of Stony Brook in New York. (Photo/via Wikimedia Commons)

    The campus of University of Stony Brook in New York. (Photo/via Wikimedia Commons)

    (MintPress) – The biggest expense at the University of Stony Brook in Long Island, N.Y. was not related to its students education but its lobbying efforts.

    The recent release of public reports found that the school spent tens of thousands of dollars for its own team of lobbyists to confront state lawmakers about letting the university raise tuition prices as it wanted. The fundraising arm of the University of Stony Brook also spent more than $1.1 million on lobbying for this same cause in the last 12 months.

    Stony Brook is not the only State University of New York (SUNY) institution spending a large amount of its funds on lobbying. The University of Buffalo also reported spending $5,000 a month to block a bill that would require SUNY-related foundations to be subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

    New York newspaper the Times Union examined public records from SUNY and found that these educational institutions often spend millions of dollars on consultants, lawyers and investment managers. Because much of this money comes from the schools’ foundations, and the board meetings are closed to the public, not much is known about where and how much schools are spending money on.

    But as the Times Union found, schools like Stony Brook spent more money on consultants or to increase salaries and benefits for the university’s top administrators than on reducing college tuition for students.

    Stony Brook’s foundation is atypical though in that most directors of similar foundations say their organization does not allow them to spend money to influence lawmakers.


    The man behind the lobbying

    The man that has benefitted most from Stony Brook’s lobbying is Abraham Lackman, the former head of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, which lobbies on behalf of private colleges.

    Lackman’s firm, Praxis Insights of Slingerlands, has received more than $700,000 over the past three years from the Stony Brook foundation alone. Stony Brook spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said Lackman was part of an “advocacy campaign” to promote SUNY 2020.

    She said that allowing Stony Brook to raise tuition would lead to the addition of 250 new faculty members during a five-year span, increase class offerings and improve graduation rates.

    “It also provides $35 million for construction of a new cancer and imaging research center which will create jobs and foster medical breakthroughs,” Sheprow said, and “put Stony Brook back on a path of fiscal stability.”

    Lackman hasn’t responded to any interview requests, but is tasked with advising the university on state rules, regulations and laws; arranging for SUNY schools to set up their own tuition structure without taking a hit in state aid; and getting a state-funded deal that would allow for Stony Brook to merge with two laboratories.

    In addition to the help Lackman provides the school, Stony Brook’s foundations also uses the services of lobbying firm Patricia Lynch & Associates, and the school itself uses Hinman Straub.

    Though the foundation spends a large chunk of its funds on lobbying, it still does provide scholarships to students and helps pay for residential halls.

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