SUNY asks for tuition increase

Geneseo students could see higher tuition next year, as last Tuesday the SUNY Board of Trustees approved a 14 percent budget increase for the 2008-2009 academic year that includes a 5 percent increase in tuition.

If approved by Governor Eliot Spitzer, the proposal would increase tuition at four-year institutions and fund the projected three-year process of hiring 1,000 full-time faculty members. This "modest" tuition increase, according to SUNY, would translate into $110 more per semester for in-state undergraduate students and would be fully covered by the Tuition Assistance Program.

"If the tuition increase proposed represents a real added value to Geneseo students, I support it," said Geneseo President Christopher Dahl. "In an ideal world, new SUNY program initiatives would be funded by state tax dollars. Obviously, we do not live in a perfect world."

The budget proposal is part of a new initiative known as the SUNY Compact, which SUNY believes will provide "comprehensive and consistent support" for the SUNY system from the state, students, faculty and major stakeholders.

SUNY tuition was last increased in 2003 by 28 percent, resulting in a $950 hike. Though tuition has remained stable since then, comprehensive fees across the system have increased, student trustee Donald Boyce of the University of Albany told the Democrat and Chronicle. Boyce, the only vote against the proposal, said that he opposes increasing the cost of a SUNY education.

The new overall budget would provide the system with $2.38 billion and will help fund the hiring of additional full-time faculty, programs of sustainability and renewable energy, research, campus safety improvements, and the system's overall proficiency.

The SUNY system educates approximately 427,000 students across 64 campuses in 7,669 degree and certificate programs. Nevertheless, the system trails behind the national averages of full-time faculty and student-faculty ratios, a statistic that is of great concern to SUNY officials.

Within the SUNY system, 67.9 percent of professors are full-time in comparison to 78.4 percent at doctoral-degree granting institutions outside the system. Similarly, these institutions have a student-faculty ratio of 13:1 while SUNY's remains 14:1.

Geneseo's Vice President of Administration and Finance Kenneth Levison believes that Geneseo will benefit from the proposal, though it will still fail to achieve its ideal student-faculty ratio of 13:1.

"Any number of additional faculty is a step forward," Leivson said. "If we can indeed get money for campus safety and enhancing educational excellence, that would be helpful, even if we only get a small portion."

Levison, like Dahl, supports a rational tuition increase policy, so that parents and students can plan and finance their education.

Student reaction generally centered around mixed feelings of apprehension at the increase, but approval of its purpose.

"I think it's a great idea to get more professors, or have better paid ones at least," said junior Holly Kahn. "I don't really enjoy the idea of a higher tuition, but if it means that it will go to something useful, then I'm okay with it."

Sophomore Sophia Hahn agreed.

"I think that the tuition is enough right now, but as a biology major, I've experienced first-hand the need for more professors," she said. "So, if it's going to fix that problem, then I would support the increase."

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio, however, isn't happy about the increase.

"As the parent of one college student this year, and two next year, I am well aware of the financial burden placed on college students and their families, and share the disappointment of students and their families when they are asked to pay more for tuition and educational expenses each year," he said.

The fate of the budget proposal is now in the hands of Spitzer and the State Legislature, who will release a budget proposal in late January.