Large public universities in the east have not kept pace with their peers in the mid-west and west. Gov. Rockefeller envisioned a system to rival or exceed that of California, but it fell short for many reasons, not the least of which were state and university administrator's politics and plain lack of courage. Today Gov. Spitzer is considering creating an endowment for SUNY to help.
However, much more effective would be the radical move of privatizing at least the four research centers, via a form of LBO. The move would place them on a playing field similar to that of, say, Cornell, and would vastly reduce both the cost to NY State and the bureaucratic controls which plague the university system.
Of course there are a multitude of challenging issues. Of course there will be great resistance from those fearful of loss of control or position. But the process can be rejuvenating and the result could greatly benefit all parties: students, faculty, and taxpayers.