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SUNY Board calls for tuition freeze and state spending hike

ALBANY — Breaking with the governor, State University of New York trustees said Wednesday they back a one-year tuition freeze.

But that comes with a major caveat: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators must increase SUNY spending $73 million in the upcoming year.

In supporting a freeze, the SUNY board aligned itself with the state Assembly and Senate and opposed Cuomo’s call for a $300 tuition hike in each of the next five years — a continuation of a similar five-year plan he and lawmakers implemented in 2011. That resulted in a roughly 30 percent tuition hike for students.

The governor and legislators are trying to agree on a roughly $155 billion spending plan by April 1, the start of New York’s fiscal year.

Board Chairman Carl McCall, the former state comptroller, said SUNY officials heard from students, parents and legislators, then decided to support a freeze.

“We just can’t continue to go back to students and families for additional revenue. We did that for five years,” McCall said.

That said, the board wants lawmakers to hand it authority to set tuition and trustees said they can’t rule out future tuition increases.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) support a two-year tuition freeze. Neither directly commented, however, on the SUNY board’s request.

“We support a tuition freeze, but we also want to make sure the SUNY and CUNY schools in the state of New York have what they need to do what their mission is,” Heastie said.

A Cuomo aide declined to comment, other than noting budget negotiations are continuing.

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