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SUNY proposes to continue annual tuition increases

SUNY chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on April 23,

SUNY chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on April 23, 2010. Credit: Ed Betz

ALBANY - Hundreds of thousands of students attending the State University of New York would continue to see automatic increases in tuition of as much as $300 a year for another five years under a proposal by SUNY.

SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher and SUNY board chairman H. Carl McCall said Wednesday that they want to extend what they call the “rational tuition system.” The legislation that took the politically dicey tuition decision out of the hands of lawmakers and governors was part of a deal five years ago to better fund SUNY, as state funding was falling short. The rational tuition plan is due to expire this year.

On Wednesday, Zimpher and McCall said SUNY needs more state aid to continue to hire more instructors, provide more programs and make students more competitive with graduates in other states and countries.

McCall said the tuition increases have been used effectively to hire more instructors, provide more mentoring and remedial work for students ill prepared for college, and help graduate more students. Now more funding is needed to go from 93,000 annual graduates this year to a goal of 150,000 by 2020.

SUNY officials said students and their families strongly support the annual, automatic increases in tuition because it provides a predictable cost.

But the United University Professions has begun a TV ad blitz taking a different tactic.

“My family can’t afford higher tuition and fees,” says one student in the TV ad running in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, New York City and on Long Island.

“And I can’t afford to take on any more debt,” another student says. “Governor, you say you care about education ... then do what’s right for us ... do what’s right for SUNY,” additional students said.

In addition to the tuition increases, SUNY wants $50 million per year for five years. Cuomo has proposed $18 million for the 2015-15 budget.

The Senate and Assembly haven’t yet publicly detailed their SUNY budget proposals. Closed-door talks continue for a budget due April 1.

SUNY’s 64 campuses serve 460,000 students. Its graduation rate in four years is 47 percent. Tuition is now $6,150 a year, which is lower than most public systems in the Northeast.


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