Stony Brook plan to expand cancer research

Artist rendering of Stony Brook University's proposed Medical

Artist rendering of Stony Brook University's proposed Medical and Research Translation building Photo Credit: SUNY

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ALBANY -- Stony Brook University unveiled an ambitious plan Wednesday to build a sprawling cancer research facility, add 245 new faculty and 400 staff, and enroll an additional 1,500 students.

University and business leaders said the plan would help students, improve local medical care options, and boost the economy.

But it all depends on securing two big building blocks from state government: a $35-million grant to jump-start the project, and permission to hike tuition by 8 percent a year for five years.

Stony Brook's president, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., outlined the university's vision to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders.

While Cuomo called it an "innovative plan that has the potential to rejuvenate Long Island," a review panel still must determine whether the proposal qualifies for the grant under the governor's "SUNY 2020" initiative. Just two months ago, however, Cuomo and state legislators enacted a budget that cut funds to Stony Brook University Medical Center and other SUNY hospitals.

Afterward, Stanley called the initiative "critically important" to Stony Brook's future. The new Medical and Research Translation building would house 25 separate cancer-research labs, expand facilities for biomedical imaging, and triple the space for outpatient care at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

"This was designed to make a huge difference to undergraduate education as well as our research capabilities," Stanley said. "In that perspective, it is one of the biggest initiatives we have undertaken in a long time."

Construction of the building, which would cost an estimated $194 million, would begin in fall 2013 at the earliest. Along with tuition increases, Stony Brook would tap its School of Medicine funds and raise about $50 in philanthropic gifts to pay for it.

Stanley acknowledged that Stony Brook had lengthy discussions with the Cuomo administration while putting together the plan and that it was "well-received" by SUNY and political officials.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) warned that any approval of a tuition hike would have to be accompanied by a commitment, written into state statute, that lawmakers would not reduce basic operational aid to State University of New York campuses -- as has occurred in previous years.

"We're not going to balance the state budget on the backs of students," Silver said, "and that's what's been happening. The only way there's going to be a deal is with a commitment [in] writing that that's not going to happen."

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) voiced similar concerns about state aid.

"There has to be a maintenance of effort on the state's part," Skelos said.

The State Legislature and the governor would have to approve any tuition hike; this year's legislative session is slated to end June 20.Current tuition for fulltime undergraduates is $4,970 per year, which is lower than other public colleges in the Northeast. Some lawmakers have ramped up their efforts to approve a bill that would raise SUNY tuition by five percent per year for the next five years. Supporters call it a "rational tuition" policy because SUNY's tuition history has been marked by years of freezes followed by huge increases - including a 43 percent hike for the 1991-92 academic year.

Legislators voiced concerns that some students might not be able to afford even a modest tuition bump.

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