ALBANY — Key legislators are trying to commit the state to annual increases in aid for public colleges the way the state has required annual tuition increases of students and their families for five years.
Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) is sponsoring bills that would require the state to provide annual increases in aid to the State University of New York and the City University of New York under the state’s SUNY 2020 plan to improve the public systems.
In theory, the effort was to help SUNY and CUNY recover from years of flat and reduced state aid before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took office in 2011. In practice, tuition rose about $300 a year automatically, while the state was committed to “a maintenance of effort clause.”
The Cuomo administration felt maintenance of effort meant no cuts, but legislators argue it means increases that reflect rising costs. Legislators insist flat state funding translates into annual cuts in revenue for campuses.
“For years, students were asked to pay more,” said Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan). “The students had made an investment. We don’t want to see that eroded.”
The bills pushed by Glick and LaValle in the last days of the 2016 session would require the state to commit to aid increases. In the state budget, legislators were able to suspect another year of tuition increases, underscoring the need for additional state aid, they said.
“It’s now that the state that must — must — step forward,” LaValle said. “We can’t keep taxing the students.”
There was no immediate comment from the Cuomo administration.
Tuition is about $6,470 a year for most SUNY campuses and about $6,330 at most CUNY schools for full-time students who are residents of the state.
The legislative session is scheduled to end June 16.