SUNY faculty again endorses modest annual tuition hikes

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The State University of New York Faculty Senate has renewed its support of a proposal to increase tuition gradually on an annual basis, which is termed “rational tuition” by SUNY officials. The Faculty Senate, which first supported this type of  tuition plan nearly a decade ago, approved a resolution at its March meeting. The SUNY administration and Student Assembly are backing the measure.

This is an excerpt from the statement:

“Without some restoration of public funds in this budget year, especially for the hospitals, and a five-year plan of modest tuition increases, students on some campuses will soon find fewer options available to them, both in terms of programs (a number of campuses have already announced the discontinuance of programs) and the number of sections offered. Between Fall 2009 and Fall 2010, SUNY lost approximately 2700 course sections, which translates into many thousands of seats that were unavailable to students. And more will be lost again by Fall 2011.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal cuts 10 percent from the SUNY and CUNY budgets, as well as other state agencies. The would be the fourth cut in four years, and SUNY would have a total of $1 billion less for its 64 campuses — more than 30 percent of state operating support. Cuomo’s budget would eliminate all state funding — $130 million —  for SUNY’s three teaching hospitals. The cut would cause thousands of job losses, according to the Faculty Senate. (The Senate and Assembly budgets would make some restorations to SUNY funding.)

“With fewer resources – over a billion dollars in state support lost without tuition increases – the public universities have often been forced to replace retiring full-time staff, both professional and teaching, with part-time employees. In some cases, they have increased class sizes and in others have recommended the elimination of academic programs.  Balanced budgets have been replaced by structural deficits on almost every SUNY campus, and without budget relief this year, these deficits that can only be addressed by further reductions in staff and programs.  This will translate into fewer opportunities for students, including in some cases the opportunity to graduate on time,” the statement said.

The Faculty Senate said three things must be in place to be successful:

— The state must commit to maintaining its funding for public higher education at “predictable levels, levels sufficient to cover the core mandatory costs.”

— The universities must conduct an aggressive campaign to find new income streams, such as government grants and contracts, foundation funding and alumni donations.

— “Mandatory, and moderate” tuition hikes each year.

“When combined with the Governor’s recognition that the universities need regulatory relief in order to operate more efficiently, this policy can create the resources necessary for our campuses across the state to continue to serve well the three quarters of a million students who are currently enrolled in CUNY and SUNY and the millions more who will be seeking a post-secondary education on our campuses in the decade ahead,” the statement said.

Small tuition increases each year “would provide the means  needed to deliver educational services and would eliminate the need for the sudden, large increases that have so often come without warning in the past,” it said.

The Faculty Senate said it supports continuing an income-tax surcharge on wealthy New Yorkers. The current tax will expire at the end of the calendar year. The Democrat-controlled Assembly has proposed keeping the tax on millionaires. (The three-year tax has been on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $300,000 annually.)

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