By a ratio of 71 percent to 29 percent, respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll support a plan that would allow State University of New York campuses to increase tuition up to 5 percent annually for five years. SUNY’s research universities in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook could raise their tuition by as much as 8 percent annually.
SUNY’s in-state undergraduate tuition—currently $4,970 a year—is one of the lowest among public colleges and universities nationwide. The plan introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week includes expanded assistance to lower-income students.
Over the past two decades, SUNY has seen periods of no change in tuition followed by large increases, which have averaged out to an annual increase of 6.7 percent, the governor said.
“This bill brings rationality to the SUNY tuition system,” he said, “by allowing students and parents to reasonably plan for college expenses, instead of being subject to dramatic tuition increases and uncertainty.”
SUNY officials and the SUNY Student Assembly support the plan.
Roughly 550 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted June 13 and 14.
Do you support or oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s five-year SUNY tuition hike plan?
Here are some comments from readers:
Can we wait until next year? My kid graduates next May.
The whole idea of public colleges is to make education accessible to all New Yorkers. They were never meant to be major research universities; the country has plenty of those already. SUNY should return to its roots by hiring professors who teach instead of writing articles for academic journals no one reads. You could avoid tuition hikes all together if the SUNY faculty spent more time in the classroom. The SUNY system is yet another example of a public program run amok, losing sight of its purpose of serving the public.
Cuomo supports a “progressive education tax” in this proposal but resists any similar approach to New York State’s wealthiest. Why is he so popular again?
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT
I oppose it only because we are in an economic struggle; people do not have jobs, but prices continue to increase on almost everything we buy for day-to-day use. How are people going to afford sending their kids to college with these increases when they cannot afford it now?
—Joseph Blank, StormFrog Inc.
SUNY is one of the lowest-priced yet highest-quality state education systems in the country. As we teach our young people about the “value” of a college education, that “value” also includes cost of attendance. Experience has shown there are numerous resources available to those who have the drive and aptitude to succeed in college, yet may lack the funds. Just as a car owner would likely take more care and prudence with a BMW than with a Chevy Nova, hopefully our college students will appreciate the time and money invested in a college education and strive to maximize their return by succeeding in and after college.
I have been paying taxes in this state since I started working at age 16. Now I have two going into college and one on deck. It irks me to think that by the time my third is in college, the tuition will likely be 25 percent higher. I may have had a different opinion here if the timing was different, but I think the problem is on the spending side and not the income side.
—David Fiegel, Blackbird Asset Services LLC
The governor is doing what needs to be done to close our irresponsible deficits. However, SUNY should be looking for ways to economize—like higher course loads per instructor, more rational retirement benefits and testing opportunities to deliver some courses electronically.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
Well done, Mr. Cuomo. When the average private school is charging $30,000 (and even at that rate they are receiving government subsidies), it isn’t hard to figure out that the average taxpayer is throwing in a healthy chunk of change to send other people’s kids to SUNY schools.
—Devon Michaels, Chili
The short answer is that I support any plan that keeps our SUNY system providing our New York State residents with excellent higher education. However, the longer answer is that I also support a plan that provides audit/watchdog oversight to our SUNY system. I support tuition costs that are spent smartly. By the way, other than the governor stating that this tuition hike is so our students can budget education costs better, has he told the taxpayers and the students why a hike is needed and made a case for higher costs within the SUNY system?
At this point in time, I say any SUNY increases in costs should be covered by an equal decrease in welfare benefits. Same pool of money, different use of it. Any other government deficits should be handled the same way—any shortfall should be made up by drawing the money from the welfare budget. Do you think any politician has given serious consideration to what’s going to happen as we keep incurring a 50 percent high school dropout rate year after year? Aren’t jobs tight enough already? How are these people going to contribute to society? If they can’t even "survive" high school, how the heck are they going to hold a job? Raise a family—because you know they’ll have kids. And so on and so on. The time is now to break the cycle. To promote high school graduation rates and increase eligibility for the SUNY system, tie welfare benefits to graduation rates. High school students who are truant, flunking, disruptive or on drugs cause parents on welfare to be denied benefits. Wow, there’s a thought! I bet you wouldn’t need a "program" to teach parenting then! Stop blaming the education system and realize that the education process begins in the home. Then implement a five-year program to eliminate welfare altogether by reducing benefits 20 percent a year until it’s gone. Include all social programs that do not directly serve the taxpayers paying into the system. The first step should be to drug test all recipients of government money. From welfare recipients to government employees. Any evidence of drug use means immediate denial of money and benefits for welfare recipients and immediate firing of government employees, forfeiting all seniority and benefits, including retirement. No bargaining allowed. Period. Get "help" on your own. People who are stuck in the welfare system as a lifestyle will either move or find jobs. That simple! NYS will become the "Empire State" again—overnight! Crime will go down, education will improve, money for government employment and pensions will miraculously appear. There will be enough money for police (and less need for them), fire, medical services and infrastructure. SUNY could be free! Deport the illegals and discover another cash cow. It isn’t that there is not enough money… it is what we’re doing with the money. So, drug test, eliminate welfare, deport illegals, and SUNY could be free. No increase in tuition! Why do our politicians feel compelled to penalize workers and achievers? Wouldn’t you agree that the people that are the source of the money, the taxpayer, should get to dictate how it is spent? Why do politicians allow the people that don’t pay taxes (or their wages and that of their staff) determine how any tax money is spent? Is this equation upside down, or is it me? As a taxpayer, if you were given the opportunity to determine if your dollars provide welfare benefits or SUNY tuition, which would you choose? Quit being the “silent majority” and get involved! It is your money.
How can we support or oppose this without having the facts in front of us? Does the SUNY system have a surplus? If yes, I do not support any increase.
If it’s true that out-of-state students can attend at the same rate or a very low rate, then this should be adjusted upward as well as incrementally increased. Is it true that any out-of-state premium goes into the state’s general funds? It should go to offset in-state tuition.
—R. Polhemus, Mendon
Its time has come.
—Jim Duke, Victor
As with many of your Snap Polls, my response is not as simple as "Support" or "Oppose." I support Gov. Cuomo’s five-year tuition hike plan ONLY IF he does something to make the interest rates on student loans more reasonable. Our priorities are misplaced when student loan interest rates are higher than home equity loan rates. If Gov. Cuomo thinks "we can reasonably plan for college expenses, instead of being subject to dramatic tuition increases and uncertainty," apparently he doesn’t count those families that have been financially affected by the recent recession.
—Larry Maggio, CPIM CSCP
I feel that the tuition increases for college are far preferable to further cuts in education for grades 1 through 12. Our society continues to place college in the "optional" class, although we all know that without it our kids are behind the economic curve. I believe that Gov. Cuomo is on the right track, having the increases programmed into the budget over five years as parents can, in fact, plan more efficiently. However, I also think that there should be a state-sponsored savings plan like an educational 401(k) that would allow at least part of the tuition to be saved (and spent) tax-free. I realize that may seem contradictory, but we have to make every effort to support higher education. Otherwise, we’ll only get further behind.
I support this even though I am a SUNY Empire State College student at the moment. I feel my college in the SUNY system will not raise tuition much since it is an online school and costs have not risen. However, since the larger schools with more overhead are going to be eating up more of the dollars from the state, they definitely need to raise their rates so as they don’t take more of the pie from my school. The biggest thing SUNY needs to do is charge much more for out-of-state students. They do not charge nearly enough for people who come to New York to use SUNY schools. In fact, due to SUNY’s great reputation and cheaper costs than other state schools, it drives massive people to come to our schools. This competition pushes residents out of the spots for schools that we pay taxes for. Residents should have first choice, and if there are spots leftover, out-of-state people can then join and pay more than double what we pay.
—Eric Cornwell, Weco Manufacturing
The real question should be: "Why does the Legislature have anything to do with tuition at the SUNY System?” Don’t ever forget the power of the purse carries with it the power to control.
I support a SUNY tuition increase for out of state students only. Why should NYS continue to subsidize these folks?
—Mike Moser, president, MyFleetDept.com
Educating our population is THE most important way out of our economic woes. The Talent Dividend research by CEOs for Cities finds, "Increasing educational attainment, measured by raising the four-year college attainment rate by one percentage point in each of the 51 largest metropolitan areas, would be associated with an increase in per capita income of $124 billion per year for the nation." Raising tuition and fees cuts the options for more and more of our young people, particularly the middle class. Programs exist for lower-income residents, it is the group in the middle who cannot afford college.
I support this initiative from a “different perspective.” I do not think anyone can disagree that SUNY costs are going up and so must tuition. I trust that SUNY will keep their “mission” in mind, to provide a high-quality education at a reasonable cost. My main rationale is that it should not take an act of the legislature and governor to allow SUNY to make realistic cost adjustments. The legislature and governor have other things to do and we can see that they do not get done as much as they should. SUNY tuition should not be subject to the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach to governing that seems to pervade our state. If SUNY costs get too far out of line then, the legislature/governor can get involved to make a correction. But let’s leave the regular operation of SUNY to SUNY.
—Jim Baker, Honeoye Falls
This will allow for growth of SUNY and for planned expenses for families, instead of desperate raises done haphazardly.
Increased tuition will increase the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor. If I had known that New York State would become a third world country I never would have moved here. As it is, I’m ready to move out.
—Cecile Lawrence, Ph.D., ARTCALIGHT
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