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SUNY schools face options on raising tuition costs

Bob Ellis/staff photographer SUNY Cortland students walk from Old Main on Monday morning. SUNY Cortland is one of 29 four-year state schools that could get an option on tuition increases if the state approves the plan. Under the proposal, campus officials could opt for increases of $100, $200 or $300 or no increases at all.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

SUNY Cortland students walk from Old Main on Monday morning. SUNY Cortland is one of 29 four-year state schools that could get an option on tuition increases if the state approves the plan. Under the proposal, campus officials could opt for increases of $100, $200 or $300 or no increases at all.

Pending a decision on SUNY’s budget, SUNY Cortland, and 28 other four-year SUNY colleges, may have the option to increase tuition by $100, $200, $300 or not at all for the 2017-18 school year.

SUNY Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to include in its 2017 budget an option for SUNY schools to not raise tuition for the 2017-18 school year.

SUNY’s budget supports all of its state-operated campuses, community colleges, statutory colleges and teaching hospitals. There are 64 campuses in total, which cater to more than 1 million students every year.

The new tuition option is part of the trustees’ request for an extension of the New York SUNY 2020 tuition plan for an additional five years, of which 2016-17 would be considered year one.

The SUNY 2020 plan was enacted in 2011, which allowed SUNY and City University of New York campuses to raise tuition by $300 per year for five years. From 2011 to 2015, tuition rates increased by 30 percent. The current tuition rate is $6,470 per semester.

Last year, lawmakers rejected a similar request for an extension of the SUNY 2020 program.
SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said even though tuition has increased, it is still significantly lower than at most other schools.

“Tuition at state schools is still very reasonable,” Bitterbaum said.

For all of the 29 four-year SUNY school campuses, the school would have to request a tuition increase and then the SUNY board would decide whether that school could raise its tuition.

Bitterbaum said it is too early to say which tuition route SUNY Cortland would take, as the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo still need to approve SUNY’s budget by March 2017. However, Bitterbaum said the school does need additional funds.

From construction projects to campus maintenance to utilities, there are a lot of costs, some rising costs, the school needs to cover. So, if it is not possible for the state to add funding to SUNY’s budget, then the funding would have to come from families in the form of higher tuition.

“There is a long way to go in the Legislature,” Bitterbaum said about SUNY’s budget being approved. “It is just a proposal at the moment. We’ll have to see what will be approved.”

Along with the total $85.8 million budget proposal, a 5 percent increase from the previous budget, SUNY is seeking $800 million for capital improvements to its 64 campuses.

“New York state has an obligation to provide a clear financial outlook for our campuses, our students and their families,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in a written statement.

“Together with New York state, we can and will continue to ensure more students have the opportunity to go to college and complete their degree on time, with less debt.”

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