State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher stressed Wednesday the value of New York’s public higher education system even amid rising college costs, including five years of $300 tuition hikes.
Zimpher spoke at a state Assembly Higher Education Committee hearing near the Capitol, briefing four lawmakers in the group on SUNY’s efforts to make college affordable and accessible, battle student debt and streamline the system’s costs.
She said the increasing tuition plan has been successful in allowing the system to improve academic quality without alienating students.
“From day one, the intent of this policy has been to ensure that our tuition policies were fair because they protected access and affordability, predictable because they allowed students and families to plan ahead, and responsible because all of the additional revenue would be invested in completion,” Zimpher said at the hearing. “We believe rational tuition has lived up to these promises.”
SUNY has also been able to “hold harmless” the neediest students from tuition increases, she said. The system covers some or all of the increase for those who receive funding from the New York’s Tuition Assistance Program and the federal government’s Pell grants.
Assemblywoman Inez Barron, D-Brooklyn, took issue with the fact that SUNY administrators characterize the increasing fee schedule as a “rational” plan.
“It’s predictable, but the label ‘rational’ to me is inappropriate. It’s predictable because we now know the rate that it’s going to increase,” Barron said.
Barron said that she doesn’t blame SUNY for tuition hikes; rather, “shortcomings” in state aid led to the increases. But, she said, the increases still might put college out of reach for some students.
“Where as tuition is going up at a predictable rate, their incomes are not going up at the same predictable rate,” she said.
This year’s tuition for New York residents in undergraduate programs was $5,570. For most out-of-state undergrads, it was $14,820.
Graduate students from New York paid $8,870; non-residents paid $15,160.
Maximum increases for in-state students in advanced-degree programs, like medicine or law, are 9 percent or 10 percent, depending on the course of study.
Most out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students will see an increase of 5 percent to 10 percent each year.