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SUNY Tuition Increases
Saturday, March 15, 2003
In the interests of full disclosure, let me say that my salary slightly depends on the SUNY budget. While I am paid through grants, rather than the state SUNY budget, I am affected by an advisory departmental RA salary cap, which may be pegged to the SUNY budget.
To help balance the New York state budget, Gov. Pataki has suggested raising the tuition cost at SBU. The usual suspects (linked above) are out protesting this. A sample letter written by NYPIRG (which I found as a pdf here) states:
And it goes on from there.
I think one of the big problems is that it's unfair to ask that the state bear all of the costs of inflation and rising costs, as holding the line on tuition would imply. The last time SUNY tuition was raised was in 1995. According to this chart, a 1995 dollar is worth an estimated 1.20 2003 dollars. To keep up with inflation, one would expect the tuition to have risen about $680 between 1995 and today.
Instead, due to the efforts of groups like NYPIRG, the tuition has remained flat. (These groups cite tuition increases, but they do so over a period of many years, generally from 1992 on.) The state could probably afford to keep increasing education subsidies during the period of economic growth, but now that the state can no longer afford to do so, it's forced to pass those increased costs onto students.
I don't particularly like Pataki's hike. I think that his proposed jump of $1200 is larger than is necessary to compensate for inflation. I should note, however, that it may be an initial negotiating position to get the needed $700 hike, one that would cancel out recent drops in government subsidies.
I think an increase of more than $700 or so would be uncalled for without justification.
Many students oppose the hike because it's a massive and unexpected increase in their cost of being educated. I sympathize with them somewhat, but I think that the problem is more with the protesters that repeatedly block small tuition increases, forcing any increase to be a large one.
The above article states that the Governor wants to tie future increases in to the CPI or another price index. This is a good idea, and one that I support. It would allow people to plan for cost increases over their academic career rather than having large increase imposed by political fiat.
It would also allow the school to continue to operate with similar funding levels. SUNY's costs increase every year, and it's unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up all of that increase without increasing tuition proportionally.
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