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SUNY board approves $200 tuition hike at four-year schools

Students walk through Stony Brook University's campus on

Students walk through Stony Brook University's campus on March 1. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Students attending the state’s public four-year colleges and universities will see a $200 increase in tuition for the 2018-19 school year under a resolution approved Thursday by the board of trustees of the State University of New York.

The hike will affect undergraduate students at 34 of the 64 SUNY campuses, including Farmingdale State College, SUNY Old Westbury and Stony Brook University.

In-state tuition at the schools will increase for full-time students from $6,670 per year to $6,870.

Tuition will not change for students receiving Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition for eligible New York residents attending state schools.

Nephtalie Numa a professional communications student at Farmingdale State, said the tuition increase is “not good news.”

“I’m a nontraditional student. I’m a mother of two, so it’s going to affect me a lot,” said Numa, 34, who lives in Patchogue. “Those $200 can go to child care, but now it’s going to my tuition.”

Numa said she understands that the school might need the money, but, “at the same time, they could get it somewhere else instead of putting it on us.”

The tuition increase comes as the public university system, like many around the nation, is grappling with a level of state aid that is not keeping pace with rising costs.

Direct state-operating aid has remained “flat for a long time,” SUNY trustee Cary Staller said Wednesday at the meeting of the board’s Finance and Administration Committee, which recommended the increase.

The 2018-19 state budget approved in April kept SUNY funding relatively flat, including approximately $2.94 billion for the state university system, a figure incorporating $708 million in direct support to its state-operated campuses like the three on Long Island. Staller described the amount as “skin and bones.”

In 2017, the state Legislature allowed SUNY’s state-operated campuses to increase tuition a maximum of $200 annually through the 2020-21 school year, as a way to provide more financial certainty both to college officials and students.

The state-operated campuses are “facing a fiscal situation which requires us to increase to the full amount of this legislative cap,” Staller said.

Board trustee Michael Braun, a Long Island native and president of the SUNY Student Assembly, was the only trustee to vote against the measure.

“These $200 increases year after year have added up to dramatic increases in a short window of time for our students,” Braun, of Elmont, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and public policy at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College, said at the committee meeting. “These tuition increases have become a regular order. They’ve become tradition and are not treated like a last resort that should be avoided at all costs like they should be.”

Wilfred Zulu, a medical technology student at Farmingdale State, said he was unpleasantly surprised by the increase.

“It’s a whole tank of gas,” said Zulu, 37, of Elmont. “Two hundred dollars, it sounds like a small amount, but ... that’s a lot of money that actually could go to books, to gas, to food. It’s something that, if I can keep it in my pocket, I’d rather do that than add it onto my tuition.”

Students at the state’s 30 community colleges will also likely see a tuition increase in the coming year. Their tuition is set at the local level during the summer and will not be voted on by the SUNY board until September.

Tuition at Nassau Community College is expected to increase by $248 ($124 per semester) for the 2018-19 school year, college spokeswoman Kathleen Murray said in an email.

The Suffolk County Community College board of trustees in April proposed a $350 increase in tuition for the upcoming school year. The rate could change depending upon its budget agreement with the county, which has not yet been finalized.

Nonresident tuition will also increase by $330, from $16,320 to $16,650 at all but a select few state-operated four-year schools. It will increase by $360 at Stony Brook University, going from $24,180 to $24,540 for nonresident baccalaureate students, according to SUNY.

The board also approved a resolution allowing students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands displaced by hurricanes Maria and Irma last year to qualify for resident tuition rates at the state’s four-year colleges next school year. This extends the benefit, which was originally afforded to the students in the 2017-18 school year.

Statewide 35 students took part in the fall, and 50 in the spring, SUNY officials said at the finance and audit committee meeting.

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