SUNY tuition hikes in context

Students walk past the student activity center at

Students walk past the student activity center at Stony Brook University. (Sept. 21, 2010) (Credit: John Paraskevas)

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Without the proper context, Newsday's June 10 cover headline "Cuomo's plan for SUNY: Big tuition hikes, As much as 47% over five years" is at best, one dimensional; at worst, sensational.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed legislation under NYSUNY 2020 is visionary, and the proposed tuition increases, when viewed in context, are far more reasonably figured than the headline implies. In fact, a 5 percent increase proposed for SUNY's four-year colleges would add about $125 per semester, and the 8 percent increase proposed for SUNY's four research centers adds up to a little less than $200 per semester.

Students and families could budget and plan. When added up and averaged out over the past 30 years, SUNY tuition has experienced an annualized 6.7 percent increase. That means that passing this rational tuition plan, which allows a 5.5 percent annual increase, would actually be reducing the rate of SUNY's historic tuition increases. And passing rational tuition "plus" -- the 8 percent for Stony Brook and three others -- would add jobs to the Long Island economy for years to come.

Let's not forget, state funding for SUNY has been cut by $500 million over the past four years as a result of our struggling economy; class sizes are getting bigger, teaching staff and faculty numbers are shrinking, and it is costing students more in tuition because it takes them more than four years to graduate.

Among the benefits this legislation would advance, specifically to current and future Stony Brook University students:

Enrollment of 1,500 additional students over the next five years. For the first time ever, due to economic challenges, Stony Brook had to reduce enrollment by 300 for 2011-12.

Students have expressed that they support rational, predictable increases as long as the revenue stays on the campus, and this is exactly the plan. They want to see class sizes under control and more classes offered, so they can graduate on time and not have to pay for summer or winter session classes, which cost about $800 per three-credit course.

Additional needs-based scholarships will be funded and used to help our students who are the most economically challenged.

If the governor's legislation does not go through as proposed, it is very unlikely that any of the above benefits will come to fruition.

Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Stony Brook

Editor's note: The writer is president of Stony Brook University.
 

The front-page headline was misleading in implying that even an 8 percent annual tuition hike in the State University over the next five years is exceptionally high. It is not comparable to the 59 percent increase in 1991, nor 36 percent in 2003, nor 28 percent in 1984.

There have been only seven tuition increments in SUNY during the last 30 years, with the lowest percentage being 14 percent in 2009. Every one of the seven has coincided with economic recessions, while during years of relative stability, there have been no increases.

So the question is, should we sabotage student and family budgets during the worst economic times with exorbitant increments, or stabilize the financial burden on students, families and colleges by having modest annual increments?

The answer is, I believe, apparent to most.

Hubert Keen, Farmingdale

Editor's note: The writer is president of Farmingdale State College.

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