NY SUNY 2020 grants rational tuition

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's NY SUNY 2020 legislation passed this summer with great support across the state. The bill offers a number of provisions, most notably a rational tuition policy.

Students and faculty have been pushing for a rational tuition policy for years. In October 2008, the State University of New York Student Assembly passed a tuition plan that they've been advocating ever since. In spring 2011, students from Geneseo and from other institutions across the state lobbied Albany in support of the rational tuition policy.

The SUNY 2020 plan falls in line with the students' agenda, calling for an increase of up to $300 per year for five years in in-state undergraduate admission.

 "[The policy] will provide a predictable revenue stream," President Christopher Dahl said. "Students won't get a huge increase [in tuition] in one fell swoop."

For students and administration alike, the policy provides the ability to plan. A maintenance of effort provision guarantees that, unless a fiscal emergency is declared, state funding cannot drop below the budget that existed during the 2010-2011 academic year.

"Base aid will stay about the same," Vice President for Finance and Administration Jim Milroy said. "It provides us with the ability to plan … the ability to make investments."

According to Dahl, the provision is not "iron clad," and Milroy said he'd like to see stronger language in the provision, but both agree that it's almost a guarantee.

The policy also provides a "Keep it at SUNY" provision, which will ensure that revenue from the tuition increase will stay within the SUNY system. In the past, a high percentage of tuition hikes went back into the state's general fund.

Students covered by the Tuition Assistance Program will also be considered in the tuition raise.

"[The bill] requires that we provide any student eligible for TAP with a discount," Milroy said.

Geneseo will pay about $380,000 annually to provide for TAP credits. With a $1.6 million increase in revenue, Geneseo will be left with a net increase of about $1.2 million. The increased revenue will provide a level of stability that Geneseo hasn't seen in the past few years.

"We don't expect any further program closures," Dahl said. The purpose of the policy is to "maintain and enhance the level of quality everyone expects."

One of the top priorities at Geneseo will be filling the vacant faculty lines.

"It does make a difference to have good faculty," Dahl said. "Over the next couple years, we'll probably be able to fill 27 of the vacant faculty positions … Our main goal is going to be academic excellence."  

"We still think that even with the increase, a SUNY Geneseo education is inexpensive," Dahl said. "We plan on using the proceeds to enhance that education experience."

Dahl said he would prefer if there was more variability in the increase from campus to campus, rather than the state-wide $300 increase.

"It's not perfect," Dahl said. "But in my years at Geneseo, it's the best piece of tuition policy I've ever seen … It will give us a chance to plan expansion and growth in curriculum and keep service high on campus."