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EDITORIAL: Is tuition flexibility coming for SUNY?

The state's tuition policy for public higher education is perfect. Perfectly wrong.

In good times, when families have money, tuition doesn't go up at all. In bad times, when families are hurting, the tuition rises sharply. Some students get through their entire undergraduate education with no increases. Some absorb crushing hikes. This is irrational and unfair, and it has to stop.

Now, in his budget, Gov. David A. Paterson proposes a vast change in the way the state, the State University of New York and the City University of New York do business. If the legislature passes it, as it must, it would let families make rational tuition plans, allow the funds from tuition increases to stay with the universities instead of plugging state deficits, and free CUNY and SUNY to create the jobs of the future.

This would take tuition out of the budget maze and let SUNY and CUNY set their own rates, in keeping with the Higher Education Price Index. Families could track the index to plan for the tuition years. The plan also would let the universities set different tuition rates, by campus and program.

Another key feature is freeing SUNY and CUNY from over-regulation that keeps them from moving fast to meet new needs and exploit new opportunities in a competitive world.

Paterson's bold proposal is just what this page has urged for years. For today's students and tomorrow's workers, the State Legislature must be just as bold and pass it. hN