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SUNY Undergrad Tuition to Jump 30 Percent Over Five Years | Business

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SUNY Undergrad Tuition to Jump 30 Percent Over Five Years
SUNY Undergrad Tuition to Jump 30 Percent Over Five Years



   Gannett Albany Bureau

   ALBANY -- Legislative leaders announced Tuesday they have a tentative deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a bill that would allow State University of New York campuses to increase tuition $300 annually for five years.

   The hikes would raise annual undergraduate tuition a total of 30 percent over five years, from $4,970 to $6,470.

   "They need money, but we have to keep it (tuition) affordable," said Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, Albany County, the chamber's second-in-command. "I think this is a good compromise."

   The agreement would permit a 10 percent a year tuition increase for out-of-state students, who currently pay $13,380 to attend SUNY.

   Cuomo had proposed legislation that would allow a 5 percent tuition hike annually over five years, with an additional 3 percent a year for SUNY's four university centers - in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook, Suffolk County.

   While the compromise bill would not include that authority, the overall agreement includes an understanding that university centers could charge students an additional fee of $75. Campuses already have the authority to set their own fees. The average fee at SUNY four-year schools is $1,235, according to SUNY.

   The university centers are applying for up to $35 million each in SUNY and state funds for long-term plans to expand programs and promote economic development plans in their regions.

   Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said he received assurance from Cuomo that SUNY Binghamton would be able to present its plans and be eligible for the aid.

   "The governor has assured me that Binghamton will have the opportunity within the next 60 days or so to make their presentation so they would then be eligible for the additional money that both Buffalo and Stony Brook are eligible for, as well as any tuition enhancement," he said.

   Cuomo, who spoke to reporters Tuesday evening, would not provide details of the SUNY agreement and said legislation on that and other issues that were agreed upon Tuesday would be available "in the next day or so."

   SUNY spokesman Morgan Hook declined to comment on the tentative agreement earlier Tuesday because no official details had been released.

   Assembly Higher Education Committee chairwoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, said the agreement includes a "maintenance of effort" to ensure that state aid to SUNY isn't cut during the five years of tuition increases. But she said it doesn't include language that ensures revenue from the tuition increases stays with the colleges; the money raised from recent tuition increases has largely gone back to the state's general fund, not the schools.

   But she said Cuomo has assured lawmakers the revenue from the tuition increases will be used for the colleges.

   "We have to believe that the governor is a man of his word and that the increased tuition will go to the schools and there won't be the draining out the back door," she said.

   SUNY leaders have been asking permission for several years to raise tuition by small, predictable amounts without needing the Legislature's approval during the annual budget process.

   SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and the Board of Trustees have pushed for a five-year "rational tuition" plan with increases up to 5.5 percent a year. The Student Assembly and Faculty Senate endorsed the proposal. They have said annual tuition hikes would allow students and families and college campuses to better plan for the future.

   The New York Public Interest Research Group has opposed "rational tuition," saying it would cause tuition to skyrocket.

   The 20-year average annual tuition increase for SUNY is 6.7 percent. It has been raised 13 times in the past 48 years according to SUNY. The pattern has been to maintain tuition at the same level for a number of years, then to increase it dramatically during difficult economic times.

   Glick has said having higher tuition rates at some SUNY schools could price some students out of the university centers.

   The compromise bill is similar in some respects to bills proposed by Glick and by Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kenneth LaValle, R-Suffolk County. Glick's bill would allow three years of tuition increases for undergraduates -- $200 the first year, $150 the second year and $150 in the third. LaValle's would allow four years of tuition hikes -- $250 the first year, $200 the second, $200 in the third and $150 in the fourth year.

   Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman James Seward, R-Milford, Otsego County, submitted legislation that would allow annual increases of up to 5.5 percent for five years.

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