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Trustees move toward tuition plan for SUNY

March 23, 2011

Newsday

ALBANY -- Trustees of the State University of New York took a significant step Tuesday toward putting in place a five-year plan that would include gradual tuition increases instead of leaving the issue to the whims of lawmakers.

Trustees authorized SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to negotiate a five-year plan with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators. A key provision is that tuition be kept in a "locked box," preventing lawmakers from undercutting tuition increases by sweeping other SUNY operational funds into the state's general fund during tough economic times. The tuition policy would apply only to New York residents.

Cuomo said the concept had "a lot of merit," but said he wanted to review it before making a commitment. But he also said that leaving tuition to the annual "political process" of the state budget has not served SUNY or students well.

"A political body doing this on a year-to-year basis tends not to do it well," the governor said.

In its resolution, SUNY trustees noted that the current process leads to wild tuition swings for students -- years of no increases followed by, for example, a 43 percent jump in 1991-92. The last increase occurred in 2009-10, when tuition was pushed to its current level ($4,970 for in-state residents, per semester).

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