New York Daily News
SUNY TUITION HIKE PLANS DRAW OUTRAGE
Increases could reach 9% each year under Hochul’s proposal that proponents say is needed to keep schools competitive
Tuition hikes at several of the most competitive State University of New York campuses could grow by 9% each year, thanks to a loophole in Gov. Hochul’s plan to fund public higher education.
Language in the executive budget bills authorizes raising in-state tuition by an “additional” 6% at four campuses starting this fall, on top of the widely reported 3% bumps students could face under the proposal.
“It’s typically described as a 3% to 6% potential tuition increase, which, frankly, was the way that we had initially understood the proposal that the governor released as well,” said Nathan Gusdorf, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. “When we look more closely at the actual draft legislation, we realized that it’s not.”
An analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute showed that if the SUNY Board of Trustees were to raise tuition at the maximum allowable every year, the annual cost of tuition and fees at the “university centers” — Binghamton, Stony Brook, Albany and Buffalo — could grow by 51% in five years to $16,200 annually. A student starting college at one of the campuses at the end of that period, in 2027, could be stuck paying $65,400 for a fouryear degree, researchers found.
A spokesman for SUNY denied the calculations, saying that the proposed increase would only apply to tuition, excluding the fees.
“Those subtleties that people might not think about when they read about it in the news translate into substantial tuition increases,” Gusdorf said.
More than 40% of SUNY undergraduates attend the four universities subject to greater hikes, according to the analysis, though university data show roughly half of students at each location receive financial aid.
“We stand out in how affordable SUNY is by comparison to other public higher ed systems,” said SUNY Chancellor John King at a budget hearing last month. “That said, campuses need a reliable, predictable set of expectations around revenue.”
SUNY officials argue that higher tuition is necessary at the university centers to hire faculty, be competitive in research areas such as climate or artificial intelligence, and fully fund labs and fellowships.
“It is markedly more expensive
to run those institutions, both in terms of faculty and research,” said Lane Filler, a spokesman for SUNY.
The additional revenue would also help campuses keep up with inflation, and fund academic programs and support services that attract students and help them finish their degrees.
But some disagreed that to recruit and retain students, they should foot the bill.
“I personally came to Binghamton because I was looking for an affordable college education, and I think that tuition hikes go back on that,” said Sophia Yazdi, a freshman studying economics at Binghamton. “We really need to prioritize and make sure we’re not forgetting the purpose of instate schools, and their unique availability to provide an affordable education students can’t get anywhere else.”
Brennan Gorman, a senior in a five-year civil engineering and business program at Buffalo, told the Daily News he picked SUNY over his then-top-choice college so he would not have to take out student loans.
“This burden should not fall on the shoulders of students, and they need to come up with other ways to fund our system appropriately,” he said.
Both the state Senate and Assembly rebuffed Hochul’s tuition hikes in their one-house budget proposals this month, and instead proposed increasing state support to SUNY and the City University of New York. The latter suggested increasing operating aid by $100 million in lieu of raising tuition.
“We have for years left breadcrumbs for higher ed,” said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany), whose district includes a university center. “You can’t try to build a world-class university system and not fund it, so it’s got to be operating dollars, capital investments, and endowment. Otherwise, we are going to need to look at tuition — and I hope that’s an absolute last resort.”
Fahy said an investment is necessary to be competitive with flagship universities in other states like California, Michigan and North Carolina.
University figures show that SUNY tuition will still be lower than most comparable institutions, even if the university centers charge more. But analysts at the Fiscal Policy Institute warned that if left unchecked, in-state tuition at New York’s most competitive schools could move from being in the most affordable quarter of public universities nationwide, to the most expensive quarter.
“Right now, they’re really leaders in affordability, and these figures show how that would change under the proposals,” said Gusdorf.
The tuition increases were still under negotiations between Hochul and state lawmakers in the final week leading up to the statutory budget deadline on April 1.
“Gov. Hochul’s Executive Budget makes transformative investments to make New York more affordable, more livable and safer,” read a statement from a gubernatorial spokesman, “and she looks forward to working with the Legislature on a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers.”