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SUNY rolls out $53 million to hire more faculty

SUNY Chancellor John King makes his first visit to Stony Brook University, one of two SUNY flagship campuses, on Thursday.
Joseph D'Alessandro
SUNY Chancellor John King makes his first visit to Stony Brook University, one of two SUNY flagship campuses, on Thursday.

New York’s state university system will roll out $53 million earmarked in the current budget to hire more faculty.

SUNY Chancellor John King, Jr. made the announcement during his first visit to Long Island on Thursday. Stony Brook University — a SUNY flagship campus — will receive $12 million.

“Additional faculty grow research funding and research productivity, to increase diversity of the faculty, and to continue to address instructional needs,” King said.

At Stony Brook University Hospital, King toured labs at the Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging, which specializes in advanced cancer treatment, and Stony Brook Medicine's mobile stroke unit. Earlier, he joined high-tech researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

SUNY Chancellor John King tours the mobile stroke unit at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Joseph D'Alessandro
SUNY Chancellor John King tours the mobile stroke unit at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The state funding will help Stony Brook make 50 new faculty hires, putting salaries and benefits in the six-figures for each. These high-tech professionals will work in quantum computing, artificial intelligence and cancer research, as well as energy and climate science.

In October, the governor announced $9 million to launch the state's Offshore Wind Training Institute, a collaboration between Stony Brook, Farmingdale State College and the state Energy Research and Development Authority to grow a workforce through training opportunities across the state.

“This can help New York become a national leader in green energy production, while ensuring a pipeline of good high paying jobs,” King said.

A month later, Stony Brook received $6.5 million to work with Brookhaven Labs to build a Quantum Internet Testbed, a broadband network being tested in five communities on Long Island that could improve security and internet speeds using quantum mechanics — rather than the transfer of electrons.

King, a former education secretary under President Obama, started his role overseeing the 64-campus system earlier this month as Governor Kathy Hochul announced her goal of increasing tuition.

During her State of the State, she proposed tying tuition hikes to the Higher Education Price Index, which is about 3%. Hochul said she wants to bolster the system with new investments and higher enrollment.

King called the increase “modest.” He said more tuition would help upgrade campuses, like Stony Brook, which is a combination of original buildings built in the 1960s and the campus’s expansion into high-tech and STEM fields.

“Affordability is a signature of the SUNY brand,” he said. “The reality is that New York, because of commitments of generations of governors and legislatures, has maintained really the most affordable, high quality, public higher education system in the country.”

Data shows over half of SUNY students pay no tuition because of financial assistance programs, like federal Pell and state Excelsior grants, which are available for families with incomes up to $100,000 and $125,000, respectively.

Another obstacle King faces is steady decline of enrollment at community colleges over the last decade, which act as feeder schools to apprenticeship programs and four-year universities. State funds bolstered by federal stimulus dollars are running out for many community colleges.

King wants to push community college programs to students of all ages — from high schoolers to earn college credits, to older students earning certificates to improve or change careers.

Who is John King?

King is the first Puerto Rican chancellor for SUNY, which is the nation’s largest public college system. Early in his career, he taught high school social studies and then led public charter schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

“His work has centered on addressing opportunity gaps, increasing completion rates and supporting every student on their path to academic success,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis.

King was the first Black state education commissioner under Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011. He joined the Obama administration in 2015. In November, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor in Maryland.

He replaces interim SUNY Chancellor Deborah Stanley, who stepped into the role following Jim Malatras’ resignation a year ago.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.