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Legislature Hearing Focuses on SUNY Tuition

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The State Senate and Assembly Higher Education Committees came to Buffalo Monday to hold the final hearing on improving and generating revenues for the SUNY and CUNY systems.

State lawmakers say they are trying to figure out ways of improving accessibility, affordability and the quality of higher education. As the state considers a proposal for incremental tuition increases at state schools, affordability for students is a main concern for the leaders of UB and Buffalo State. Among those testifying, was the newly appointed vice president of external affairs for the University at Buffalo. Marsha Henderson says the state should create a rational tuition policy.

"A rational tuition policy will allow UB to provide a continuous and sustainable educational experience to our students," Henderson said. "(They) expect not only the tuition they agreed to pay upon admission, but that the curriculum and the excellent faculty will be there throughout the course of their studies."

Buffalo State President Muriel Howard also agrees with an incremental tuition increase. She says this program would prevent large tuition hikes and help students pay for their education.

"When they have unpredictable high hikes, they begin to work more and so the faculty are competing with the work force," Howard said. "Often, our students work an average of 30 hours a week. That is absolutely too many hours for a full time student to be working."

But NYPIRG calls the automatic tuition hike a bad idea. Francis Clark is a NYPIRG campaign coordinator.

"To call this a tuition guarantee is a misnomer," Clark said. "There is no guarantee that the money will be spent for higher education. That is a huge thing to remember, and there is no guarantee that there will be a small increase. The only guarantee is that tuition is going up every year for the incoming freshmen."

Clark says they are urging lawmakers to re-prioritize higher education by holding the line on tuition and reforming the tuition assistance program known as TAP. He says according to NYPIRG research incremental tuition programs have been unsuccessful in other states.