On Tuesday, the State University of New York Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution that authorizes Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher to pursue negotiations with the governor’s office and Legislature to craft a rational tuition plan for resident undergraduate students. The plan would provide a stable revenue source for SUNY in the face of reduced state support, while protecting students by maintaining modest and affordable tuition.
Chancellor Zimpher’s proposed five-year tuition plan would allow students and families to plan for the cost of a college education and give SUNY a sustainable revenue stream that will enable students to successfully complete their baccalaureate degrees in a timely fashion. The plan protects access and affordability through modest annual increases – if such increases are necessary – and will ensure that all the tuition charged by SUNY is invested in faculty, programs and curricula that would enhance degree completion.
“The Board is taking this action to stand up for an embattled university,” said SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden. “By following the strong leadership of the Student Assembly and the Faculty Senate, we are ensuring that SUNY’s voice is heard in Albany as the budget negotiations reach their conclusion.”
“SUNY is the most affordable university in the northeast and one of the most affordable universities in the country,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “We take very seriously our obligation to maintain access for all New Yorkers who seek higher education, but we also must ensure that the education we offer continues to be world-class when they get here. This plan balances those two goals. I commend Chairman Carl Hayden and the entire SUNY Board of Trustees for passing this resolution.”
The resolution contains essential reform provisions to New York’s broken tuition-setting practices, which the SUNY Board of Trustees is asking the governor and Legislature to consider for the FY 2011-2012 budget. Among these reforms is a “maintenance of effort” construct – a priority of the Assembly Majority Conference – which includes placing SUNY’s state support, and all tuition and fees charged by SUNY, in a “lock box.” This would separate SUNY’s tuition and fees from other general-news funds and thus protect it from future sweeps into the general-news fund.
Further, the resolution seeks to establish statutory language that prohibits the use of incremental increases in tuition to backfill cuts in state support for SUNY.
“Governor Cuomo has made it very clear that SUNY will be a key part of the economic revitalization of New York,” Chancellor Zimpher continued. “An affordable tuition policy that protects students from the unexpected and exorbitant tuition increases we have seen in the past will help us answer his call. This plan is a fair, predictable and responsible solution for New York families, all of whom deserve access to a top-notch education.”
SUNY’s current annual tuition of $4,970 is the lowest among all public institutions of higher education in the northeastern United States and is also among the least expensive of all such institutions in the country. Even with modest annual tuition increases, SUNY will continue to be the most affordable university in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states and among the most affordable in the United States.
SUNY has endured more than $1.1 billion in cuts over the past three years. If enacted, the FY 2011-2012 Executive Budget proposal reduces this support by an additional $362 million, bringing the total reduction over four years to $1.5 billion – a decrease in state funding of nearly 35 percent. SUNY already has seen its capacity to deliver programs and services diminished, including hiring freezes, increased reliance on adjunct faculty, reductions in course offerings, increases in class size and already has announced decisions to limit enrollments or otherwise restrict programs.