Tuition hike instated in midst of SUNY cuts

On Nov. 18, the SUNY board of trustees voted in favor of a $620 total tuition hike for all campuses in the next year, including an increase of $310 for the spring semester.

The trustees' plan means that tuition will rise approximately 14 percent to $4,970 per year, up from $4,350. New York's Tuition Assistance Program sets a cap of $5,000, beyond which it will not grant money.

The news comes at a time when forecasted budget cuts are looking increasingly threatening to the SUNY system. Gov. Paterson recently proposed additional cuts of $65 million on top of an existing $210 million reduction. Essentially, Paterson is calling for a flat budget, as under his plan the state will not fund negotiated salary increases next year.

Putting the cuts in blunt terms, Vice President of Administration and Finance Kenneth Levison explained that a potential SUNY-wide reduction of $489 million for the 2009-2010 academic year is the equivalent of cutting all state aid from 22 of 29 SUNY campuses excluding community colleges.

Total support from state aid for operations would drop by about a third if all of the planned reductions go into effect.

"There's not money out there and there are many competing interests," said Levison of the financial situation in New York State.

Even with the $620 hike, Levison estimated that Geneseo students will collectively pay about $3.2 million more in tuition and the college's overall funding could drop by as much as $3.5 million.

"I guess I kind of expected it to come," said freshman Mike Hoy of the tuition increase. "It's not surprising to me."

Geneseo is already struggling to make up the current gap by enacting a hiring freeze, reducing the money allocated to academic departments, and halting purchases of furniture and equipment.

There is some money in Geneseo's reserves, but that money will not be sufficient to offset the forecasted cuts, considering the lack of major relief from the state or changes in the way the SUNY system is tied to the political process.

"There's no way to keep things moving forward the way you want them to in this political morass," said Levison.

As economic woes plague the nation and the economy weakens, some colleges, including the University of Cincinnati, are attempting to raise revenues by boosting enrollment. The strategy usually requires hiring more adjunct faculty instead of more costly tenure-track professors.

Levison warned that adopting such measures would "change the fabric of what we are," adding that nearly every SUNY campus, including Geneseo, is currently over-enrolled due to higher than expected yield rates in recent years.

At an emergency session of the legislature Nov. 18, Gov. Paterson sent lawmakers home after accomplishing nothing but back-and-forth bickering. As a result, Paterson has postponed the resolution of a $2 billion deficit until after the Dec. 16 release of his spending proposals for 2009-2010.?

"As long as we see something in return for it, I don't see a problem with it," said freshman Abby Sayler of the tuition hikes.

"I'm getting such a good value [at Geneseo] that it wasn't really upsetting to me," said senior Molly Hanford, who transferred from a private school where annual increases of a thousand dollars were not outside the norm.

Billing for the spring semester is expected to be sent out by the end of the month.