Staff Editorial: NY SUNY 2020 is a big step in the right direction

The Lamron staff strongly supports the passage of the NY SUNY 2020 bill, though we must encourage students to remember that this is not the end of the story of SUNY funding, but a chapter in a continuously developing narrative.

The centerpiece of NY SUNY 2020 is a rational tuition policy that allows individual SUNY schools to raise tuition by up to $300 per year for the next five years and a clause which protects tuition revenues from being used for other purposes by the state. The bill also requires the state to maintain funding for SUNY and CUNY at no less than levels for the current fiscal year, barring a fiscal emergency.

The new policy thus makes tuition increases gradual and predictable, allowing families to plan for reasonably larger bills and institutions to keep up with financially demanding economies. The state has starved us to the point where we should be grateful for the opportunity to pay more to our school in order to maintain the superb quality of our education.

In addition, there is finally a safeguard in place so that we are guaranteed that the tuition dollars we pay will actually go directly to our school and not merely into some general state pool of money where they could be lost and never actually contribute to our education due to budget cuts by the state legislature. This autonomous control over tuition money is a necessity for all SUNY and CUNY schools to continue existing in a political era in our country when defunding is systematically dismantling public institutions.

It is because of this political context that we must insist that anyone with a stake in the SUNY/CUNY system (read: anyone in New York state) regard the passage of the NY SUNY 2020 bill as a page in the story, but not the last page.

  This new legislation comes with both gain and loss. While our schools gain autonomy and protection, there is a small loss in the obligation placed on the state to maintain funding to its public higher education institutions because, well, they can raise their own tuition money if they have budget gaps. No need for the state to take care of that so long as it doesn't drop below the 2010-2011 level. This means a small step in the direction of privatization.

Of course, one small step does not equal a total shift - no need to make huge irrational leaps in logic when we should indeed be grateful. But one small step could be followed by another. We must be mindful of where we walk.