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A Bleak Outlook for Higher Education in the Northeast


By Jason E. Lane
February 2013
Colleges and universities are looking at an era of fewer high school graduates, erratic returns on endowments, and new funding patterns from state governments. Lane argues that this might lead to more closures and consolidations of institutions in the Northeast if they are not prepared to adapt to this new environment.

Sandy's First Birthday — is it a Happy One?


By James W. Fossett
October 2013
The recovery from Superstorm Sandy at the first anniversary of landfall, in short, is still very much a work in progress and likely will be for some time to come.

A Tale of Two Hurricanes


By James W. Fossett
January 2013
If the experience of Hurricane Katrina is any guide, writes Institute Senior Fellow Fossett, recovering from Hurricane Sandy will be lengthy and conflictual. Fossett calls for consideration of major changes in policies and institutions to expedite recovery from megastorms.

Signs of Change in New York’s Community College System?


By David Shaffer
September 2012
The nation’s “skills gap” is threatening to rewrite our expectations of community college systems — in New York as elsewhere. Where might the SUNY system be going as it faces the challenge of taking a lead role in workforce development?

The Changing Face of Disaster Relief Politics


By James W. Fossett
September 2012
The nasty, rancorous debate in Washington over the relief package for Hurricane Sandy may signal a troubling shift in disaster relief politics. Historically, Congress has acted swiftly to approve requests for increasingly generous funding for recovery and rebuilding in a bipartisan fashion. By contrast, the debate over relief for Sandy victims stretched out over two Congresses and was marked by sharp partisan and regional divisions which required considerable political maneuvering to resolve. The internal political structure of Congress and the fiscal pressures that gave rise to these divisions seem likely to persist, meaning that rancorous, difficult politics may be the “new normal” for disaster relief.

Before More Housing Policy, More Data


By James R. Follain
September 2012
Reducing the number of vacant homes and minimizing their impact on neighborhoods is one of the most daunting challenges facing policymakers today. Policy has moved forward in response to the crisis, but are decisions being made with adequate information?

Fiscal Crisis Looms for New York's Cities


By Robert B. Ward
April 2012
The state's municipalities have not experienced the trauma faced elsewhere in the country, where local governments have cut essential services and even declared bankruptcy. But fiscal crises may be coming to New York’s cities and counties — unless local officials identify and adopt solutions quickly.

Can ‘Creative Destruction’ be Harnessed?


By James W. Fossett
April 2012
Government investment in research at universities and private companies can be seen as an attempt to encourage "creative destruction" — the continual creation of new industries and wealth, making old ones obsolete. Fossett asks whether economic developers can institutionalize this process.

A Better Way to Rank Universities


By Joseph Burke
March 2012
Education reformers are focusing on critical objectives for colleges and universities, such as increasing degree completion and reducing the time it takes students to earn their degrees. They must also dismantle the "resource and reputation" model of education promoted by popular media.

Why Americans Don't Like 'Obamacare'


By Richard Kirsch
February 2012
The health reform law known as "Obamacare" was enacted two years ago. But several key provisions don't go into effect for another two years. This is causing many Americans to believe the law acheived little. The challenge for supporters is to convince people that help really is on the way.

Geron, Stem Cells & California’s $25 Million: Lessons for States


By James W. Fossett
February 2012
The state of California spent $25 million on a stem cell research project, only to see the company recently cancel the project and withdraw from stem cell research entirely. For the many states using taxpayer dollars to stimulate jobs in a wide range of technologies, this is a cautionary tale.

‘Systemness’ Keeps College Affordable, Productive, Accessible


By Nancy L. Zimpher
January 2012
How can college be kept affordable, accessible and productive in the face of severe funding cuts? The chancellor of the State University of New York says the answer lies in SUNY’s “systemness” — the combined strength of its 64 campuses, leveraged as one formidable force.

Downstate Pays More, Upstate Gets More: Does It Matter?


By Robert B. Ward
December 2011
Regional disparities in a state budget are not necessarily unfair, as factors like wealth and need drive the distribution of dollars. But the traditional social compact regarding redistribution from richer to poorer communities may be strained by emerging fiscal stress in some wealthier areas.

Have I Got a Deal for You


By James W. Fossett and Robert Purtell
November 2011
Local governments are confronting the need for large sums of cash to continue services or meet obligations in the midst of a slow economic recovery. Some are making costly long-term decisions to get that money.

A Tale of Two Debates


By James R. Follain
September 2011
The recent debate over the federal debt ceiling was often too narrow and simplistic — much like the decade-long discussion over how much capital is adequate to insure the solvency of banks. Follain suggests ways to enrich future policy debates over such complex economic issues.

Job Services for Those Who Need Them Most: What Works?


By David J. Wright
August 2011
Slow economic growth and high unemployment levels increase the importance of offering effective job services to the neediest clients. In fact, successful One-Stop Career Centers in different states share some traits. Especially in this economic climate, they may be worth replicating.

The Rise and Fall of For-Profit Higher Education


By Kevin Kinser
August 2011
For-profit higher education has grown remarkably over the last 15 years, often by offering alternative paths to a college degree through online courses or open-admission campuses. Now regulators have noticed the enrollment growth has not brought a similar increase in degrees granted.

Stem Cell Policy as Bar-Room Brawl


By James W. Fossett and Michelle N. Meyer
August 2011
The latest punch in this ongoing policy brawl has landed in federal court over the interpretation of a law restricting federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. This round's winners: advocates of such research. But the fight's far from over.

Medicaid Helps — in Oregon Anyway


By James W. Fossett
July 2011
Groundbreaking research out of Oregon shows extremely positive results for poor people enrolled in Medicaid compared to those not covered by the government health insurance program. Trouble is, it's not easy to generalize from one state's Medicaid program to another.

A Home-Grown Strategy for Economic Growth


By Thomas Gais
June 2011
Our country's economic strengths include an entrepreneurial culture, the excellence of its higher education institutions and its regional diversity. These strengths can be combined to great effect, as our studies of the State University of New York and other institutions have shown.

Governor Cuomo’s Three Big Achievements


By Robert B. Ward
June 2011
New York's freshman governor delivered three policy changes in his first legislative session that are likely to have long-lasting effects: gay marriage, a property tax cap and sharp reduction of a structural budget gap. The result: Restoration of the power of the chief executive's office in Albany.

How to Address Rising Volatility in State Tax Systems


By Donald J. Boyd and Robert B. Ward
April 2011
Recognizing that forecasting tax revenues is an inexact science, what can state policymakers do to minimize errors, and deal with such issues when they arise? Our experts look at some states' best practices.

Increasing Volatility in Tax Systems: A Growing Budget Problem for States


By Donald J. Boyd and Robert B. Ward
March 2011
With roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars to spend, even small errors in revenue forecasts can make a big difference for state and local government budgets. Such errors, however, are growing.

Health Reform: States Move Forward with Implementation


By Courtney Burke
January 2011
A debate over whether to repeal the health reform law enacted last year is going on now in the U.S. House of Representatives. Whatever the outcome, and despite legal challenges to the law, most states continue to move ahead with implementation, for a number of reasons.

Gov. Cuomo and the Budget Culture in Albany


By Robert B. Ward
January 2011
Governor Cuomo is not only seeking to balance the budget in Albany — he’s trying to change a budget culture that delivers generous spending but pays little heed to taxes, long-term sustainability or programmatic results. Only highly effective leadership can change that, Ward writes.

Health Reform: Unknown Future for Undocumented Immigrants


By Erika Martin and Courtney Burke
December 2010
Undocumented immigrants are explicitly excluded from many provisions in the health reform legislation passed in 2010. States will need to find ways to reimburse medical providers for their uncompensated care to them.

Now What? Tough Road Ahead for New Governors


By John F. Cape
November 2010
As newly elected state CEOs look to the nitty-gritty work of balancing budgets, they will face stark fiscal realities, unpopular choices and little room for mistakes. To deal with those realities, governors should start by identifying the fundamental goals they seek to achieve over a first term.

Property Tax Cap: Relief, Pain or Both?


By Robert B. Ward
November 2010
After years of debate, the state Legislature may impose a cap on local property taxes in 2011. It will require good choices on the part of elected leaders and voters to ensure such a cap has its intended effect: making property taxes more affordable without eroding essential government services.

Uncertain Hospital Payments Pose Risk


By Courtney Burke and Erika Martin
October 2010
Federal payments to states to cover some uncompensated hospital care costs will be phased out under health reform. Much needs to be learned about these payments' role in the health care system — before the money is gone.

Rx for Medicaid: The Right Dose of Oversight


By Courtney Burke
October 2010
A major change to Medicaid is underway in New York, as administration of the health insurance program moves from counties to the state. Given the breadth and cost of Medicaid in New York, this is big news. But officials also need to evaluate how the change affects access to benefits.

Oil Spill is Another Call for New Leadership


By Marc Landy
August 2010
In the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP has decided it needs new leadership. In analyzing its own efforts during this latest calamity on the Gulf Coast, the federal government might come to a similar conclusion concerning its disaster response operations.

Enacting NY’s Budget, Keeping It Balanced


By Robert B. Ward
June 2010
Gov. David Paterson's unprecedented use of executive power demonstrated the power New York's chief executive can wield in adoption of the state budget. But keeping spending and revenues aligned through the year is another matter — and here, the governor's legal authority comes up short.

Investment — and Impact — Beyond Campus


By David J. Wright
March 2010
As the Great Recession strains public resources, an idea is traveling fast in higher education — the notion that universities and colleges can fuel revitalization efforts in their communities. Universities are well-positioned to catalyze employment, housing, retail and cultural projects.

Medicaid Spending in NY: A Good Value?


By Courtney Burke
March 2010
New York spends more than any other state on Medicaid. That's over $51 billion under Gov. Paterson's proposed 2010-2011 budget. But are we getting what we pay for? Taxpayers often fund expensive procedures, in expensive settings, for preventable diseases.

Health Reform: What We Don't Know


By Robert B. Ward
March 2010
On the topic of the new federal health-care legislation, there are all kinds of questions for which “I don’t know” is the only answer that President Obama, or the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, or anyone else can honestly provide.

New Directions for Economic Development


By David F. Shaffer and David J. Wright
March 2010
The economic development contest is changing. Traditional economic development efforts have focused on leveraging money. But in a knowledge economy, the key asset that states must now deploy is, actually, knowledge.

Note to Health Reformers: All High-Risk Pools are Not Equal


By Courtney Burke and Lynn Blewett
March 2010
Creating pools to insure high-risk, high-cost patients was a health reform proposal with broad support from Democrats and Republicans. But many states already have these, and not all of them have gotten it right.

Fiscal Realities in an Uncertain State


By Robert B. Ward
March 2010
Uncertainty at the Capitol increases the risk that New York State leaders will lose sight of the need to act decisively on the state's chronic, structural budget gaps. But the need to do so is critical. The fiscal trouble looming now is worse than any in recent history.

A Dropout Crisis: Teachers Leaving Schools


By Kenneth R. Howey
February 2010
The student dropout problem is a crisis. A second major dropout problem has not been chronicled as widely — the exodus of teachers. Unless major changes are made in the next five years, more than a million newly minted teachers will leave urban, high-poverty schools.

New York's Budget: Thinking About Tomorrow


By Robert B. Ward
January 2010
Governor Paterson’s proposed budget asks that state leaders start thinking about tomorrow as they consider today’s proposals. The budget gap looming a year from now is more than $14 billion – a problem no one in Albany or any other state capital knows how to solve.

A Dropout Crisis in the Nation's Schools


By Kenneth R. Howey
January 2010
Would the disappearance of a city of over a million people every year get one’s attention? That's how many students drop out of school annually throughout the nation. Yet this startling number has not created a sense of urgency nationally or a major coordinated strategy to redress the problem.

Urban Hardship Trends Before the Great Recession


By David J. Wright
November 2009
America’s cities and suburbs are caught in the deepest recession in more than a generation. The nation’s metropolitan areas actually already were in decline before the Great Recession took hold. This slide was steepest in portions of the country that had led the way in economic growth.

Safe Bet: More State-Sponsored Gambling


By Jeff Perlee
October 2009
Gambling revenues are a small share of state budgets. Yet they are a steady revenue stream that can be easier to expand than taxes, this former New York Lottery Director writes. In this guest essay, he analyzes resulting issues, including the role of the federal government as the Internet and new gaming technologies make state borders less relevant.

Obama's Health-Insurance Reversal


By Courtney Burke
September 2009
In his speech on health care reform, President Obama expressed support for a mandate that everyone have health insurance. That was a switch from his position during the presidential campaign. What would such a mandate mean for health-care reform, and for states?

Community Colleges: Education's Handymen


By David Shaffer
September 2009
President Obama’s visit to Hudson Valley Community College highlighted the role that these two-year schools can play in upgrading the U.S. workforce. But if we’re to make the most of community colleges, we need to choose priorities among the various things we expect them to do.

A Quick Primer on Health Reform


By Richard P. Nathan
August 2009
Got two minutes? That's enough time to learn these six terms that define what the health reform debate is about. Yet while simple to learn, all six parts of the puzzle are hotly controversial and intrinsically complex. Moreover, if any one of them isn't in the mix, the grand plans will be foiled.

Playing Ball With a Full Team


By Courtney Burke
August 2009
“Frenetic” could describe the pace with which congressional committees have made deals to advance health reform. Now that August is here, members of Congress can take time to reflect on what is really needed. An important consideration is the role states will play on the health reform team.

Bioethics Panel: Limited But Vital Role


By James W. Fossett and Michelle N. Meyer
July 2009
A newly appointed President's Commission on Bioethics will likely have little influence on policy. But it could serve an important role as a resource and guide in areas like international law and emerging technologies.

Federal Stimulus: No Panacea for New York


By David Shaffer
July 2009
The federal stimulus package is moving infrastructure projects forward and closing some of New York’s short-term budget gap. But the state and local governments face years of budget problems, and the federal money will pay for only about 2 percent of identified infrastructure needs.

Getting It Right for Community Colleges


By David Shaffer
July 2009
President Obama’s proposed $12 billion program for community colleges comes as good news in a tough time for the schools. But the long-term impact of the program will depend in part on whether the final legislation fixes the right things. Increasing graduation rates may not be one of those.

Control of New York’s Senate: Who Decides?


By Robert B. Ward
June 2009
The question of who controls the New York State Senate is, for now, in the hands of the 62 senators rather than the courts. But a lingering power vacuum may produce new calls for judicial intervention. If and when such an appeal goes to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, its decision whether to accept the case could turn on this question: What does uncertainty over the Senate mean for the state?

Sticking Points for Stimulus Education Reform


By Allison Armour-Garb
May 2009
President Barack Obama is seeking to use his economic stimulus package to leverage education reform. But his reform aspirations may be on a collision course with competing realities. Specifically, three sets of tensions may get in the way.

Remedy for Health Reform Planning


By Richard P. Nathan
May 2009
The politics, finances, and management challenges of health care reform have bedeviled the nation for 60-plus years. The power of the moneyed, vested interests in the status quo are extraordinary — and, if anything, have increased. A special decision-making mechanism is needed.

States, Private Funders to Lead on Stem Cells


By James W. Fossett
May 2009
When the Obama administration released its plans for government-funded human embryonic stem cell research, some scientists and patient advocates were disappointed in the policy's limits. But indications are the administration is not likely to push much further for changes in such research.

Yes, It Matters Who Gets Elected


By Robert B. Ward
April 2009
Are politicians all the same? New York’s Legislature provides a case study of whether it matters which party is in control. On issues from income and property taxes, to drug laws and gay marriage, there’s no denying that a switch in the state Senate’s majority has brought big changes in approaches to important state policies.

NY: Harbinger of How the Stimulus Works?


By David Shaffer
April 2009
The federal government offered states stimulus funds to bolster their budgets and increase their fiscal stability. New York is the first state to enact a budget that includes its share of the money. But if the Empire State is any indication, things may not work out exactly as Congress hoped.

Using Medicaid to Pay for Nursing Home Care


By Courtney Burke
April 2009
Critics of the Medicaid program say wealthy individuals transfer assets unfairly, to shift nursing home costs to taxpayers. An Institute study does not conclusively measure such abuse. But among New York counties, there is a dramatic variation in the number of Medicaid applications denied due to asset transfers. That raises important questions.

Health Care Reform: Thinking Long-Term


By Courtney Burke
March 2009
With the aging of the baby boom generation and a growing federal deficit that is largely driven by health-related programs, issues surrounding long-term care should be front and center in discussions about health reform. For decades, states have been experimenting with ways to improve long-term care quality and reduce its costs. State innovations could serve as models for nationwide reforms.

States Shape Immigrant Policy


By Irene Lurie
March 2009
Illegal immigration is a stark symptom of an ailing federal policy. Congress has been unable to agree on a comprehensive reform of immigration rules. With the federal government in a stalemate, the states have taken action to an unprecedented degree. Yet initiatives vary considerably from state to state, and some have led to controversy and legal challenges.

The Stimulus Needs the States


By David Shaffer and David J. Wright
February 2009
Much of the work of carrying out the $787 billion “federal” economic recovery package will be done through the states. Why is that? And how well will the federal-state relationship work in jump-starting the economy?

Stimulus Could Boost School Construction


By Allison Armour-Garb and Thomas Gais
February 2009
After a recession, school capital spending tends to take a hit. This time, that hit could be particularly damaging, as spending on K-12 construction and repair has yet to pick up from the 2003 downturn. But Congress is tackling the issue with provisions in the economic stimulus package.

Jobs Stimulus: Keep it Simple, Involve the States


By Richard Nathan
January 2009
The Obama administration may face a tougher time spurring job growth than leaders did under the New Deal, even if it spends billions on capital projects. The Rockefeller Institute’s Co-director advises a straightforward approach that works closely with states “in smart ways to take advantage of their knowledge of the terrain.” “Get people to work,” Nathan writes.

Common Ground on the Church-State Divide


By David Wright
January 2009
While the Obama Administration heralds change, in the area of faith-based initiatives, the new President appears likely to build on the foundation laid by George W. Bush. One area where there may be modification, but perhaps no less debate, is religious hiring rights – whether tax-funded religious groups may prefer employees of their own faith.

The Improbable Tree-Hugger


By Henry L. Diamond
January 2009
Nelson Rockefeller’s continuing environmental legacy was an important gift to New York State – and set a ground-breaking example for other states, as well. Diamond, who served as Governor Rockefeller’s first Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, writes that Rockefeller made major contributions in water pollution control, land use and air-quality standards, among other areas.



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