ALBANY – As students at the State University of New York head back to class, they will be doing so with fewer classmates and higher tuition.
Enrollment at the 64 SUNY campuses has dropped 3.5 percent over the past five years, with the biggest dropoff at its 30 community colleges, a review of records by Gannett's Albany Bureau showed.
At the same time, tuition has increased 30 percent since 2010 to $6,470 a year for incoming freshmen this fall.
Tuition hikes every year for the last five years?
And more coming:
SUNY officials, however, head into the new semester facing uncertainty over future tuition increases as a five-year agreement with the state Legislature to increase tuition $300 a year, called SUNY 2020, expires next year.Zimpher said SUNY would ask for a five-year renewal of the $300-a-year tuition increase, but may try to limit the increases to less than $300 each year."We're still at the limit of $300. We don't think it has to go to $300 for every one of our sectors. So our primary theme will be: roll it over. We had a 2020 goal," she said.
When I first started teaching fifteen years ago, a student who was living in public housing could attend a SUNY school and receive a degree with a minimal amount of debt.
Pell, TAP and FSEOG would cover all of the tuition and almost all of the room/board expenses.
They would have to take out a small subsidized loan a year to cover the rest - usually no more than $2000.
If the financing stayed the same for all four years, they were graduating with loan debt of less than $10,000 - not optimal, but certainly not prohibitive to starting a career, having a family, going to grad school, etc.
These days, those same students are getting loaded up with the maximum in both subsidized/unsubsidized Stafford loans ($5500), they may be getting a Perkins loan as well, the parents are getting a PLUS loan and even then it's not enough to cover tuition/room/board/books.
Since the amount in loans a student can take out goes up from freshman year and some of their loans are unsubsidized, after four years they're graduating from a SUNY with over $25,000 in debt - and that's not including the PLUS loans the parents got nailed with (which have to be paid back immediately, plus inteterst.)
Take a look at Stony Brook this year:
The total cost of attendance - tuition, fees, room and board - is $20,811.
That's before any other expenses - books, living expenses, clothing allowance, etc.
Here's how the financing works for a student in need in my experience as a high school teacher of seniors.
The maximum Pell grant award $5,775 a year, the TAP award is usually about $5,000 a year. So that's $10,575.
Some students receive the FSEOG grant (which can be as high as $4,000), but I've never seen it higher than $1,500.
Let's add $1,500 to our student's grant total - $12,075.
The DIRECT costs of attendance - the money Stony Brook takes right away at the beginning - is $20,811 (broken up by semester, but you get the idea.)
Our student is $8,736 in the hole for the DIRECT costs.
They've gotten some work-study aid, but that money has to be worked for, won't come until much later in the semester, so that's no help here.
Stony Brook gives our student the maximum Stafford loans for a freshman - $5,500 - and that takes the student down to $3,236 still needed to cover expenses.
Stony Brook doles out $2,500 to the parent with a PLUS loan and hands out another $1,500 in a Perkins loan to the student.
The student now has all DIRECT costs paid for, though there's no money left over because origination fees for the loans (over 1% per loan) take away the excess.
How do they buy books, pay for living expenses, etc?
Well, you hope they've got a little money saved from a summer job or the parents have a little money to give them when they head off to school.
They'll have to work during the school year - that's not so bad, they have work study money, so they can get a job on campus - but money's going to be tight and they're looking at an awful lot of debt when they graduate (on top of which, the parents are looking at some debt while they're in school.)
This is an imaginary scenario, but it's one I see with high school seniors who come to me for college advisement.
This same student, if attending a CUNY, would come out with little to no debt because there are no room/board costs (though tuition and fees at CUNY have skyrocketed the last few years as well), so I often say think long and hard about attending a CUNY school, at least for the first two years, then going away as an upperclassman, to minimize the loan debt to themselves and their parents.
But these are young adults and young adults will do (and should do) what young adults want to do - an important component of the college experience is for students to learn how to make judicious financial decisions or understand there may be consequences when those decisions are made less judiciously.
So many often sign up for the SUNY because they want the "college experience" - the going away from home, the dorm-living, etc.
Also, the CUNY schools have gotten much more competitive in terms of admissions over the past few years and I have seen some students get into four year SUNY schools but get locked out of the four year CUNY schools (City, Hunter, Baruch, Brooklyn) and have to attend the SUNY school.
The Gannett story says while enrollment at SUNY has dropped 3.5% over the past five years (mostly due to the improving economy that sees fewer go to community college for retraining and some a choose a private school over a SUNY), employment at SUNY is up 2%.
SUNY claims the tuition increases - and after five straight years of them, they promise they'll be more - are necessary to keep up with costs, infrastructure, etc.
I understand that costs go up over the years (though I'm not sure what they're spending that money on is worthwhile, that's a post for another day), but passing the costs on to students and their families DIRECTLY instead of helping out by getting more money from the state, is NOT the way to pay for them.
Governor Cuomo, ever happy to keep state costs low and pass the buck onto working and middle class people, is getting some pushback from the Heavy Hearts in the Legislature:
ALBANY -- A bill before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo represents the opening punch in a fight that will determine how much tuition will increase for 700,000 public college students and their families in coming years.
The bill demands that the Cuomo administration keep increases in state aid in closer pace with annual tuition hikes, which have jumped 30 percent in the past five years at the State University of New York and City University of New York. While state aid increased far more in those years compared with the preceding era of flat and reduced funding, it still grew at less than half the rate of tuition.
The bill overwhelmingly passed by the State Legislature would require the state to cover inflationary and mandated costs at the State University of New York and City University of New York, such as utility bills, building rentals and salaries and benefits. It also would require the state budget to cover mandated costs for programs and equipment at SUNY's three teaching hospitals in Stony Brook, Brooklyn and Syracuse.
Legislators seek to require a greater state commitment than is in the 2011 law that created the "rational tuition" plan of annual increases. The plan was created to better fund the systems, after state aid cuts, to hire and retain professors to raise academic performance, and to avoid unpredictable spikes in tuition forced by crises.
The public universities were hit with deeper cuts than many state programs in the state fiscal crisis of 2008-2011.
In that 2011 law, the Cuomo administration agreed to a "maintenance of effort" in state aid. That law only required that the state not cut SUNY and CUNY aid from 2011 to 2016.
That tuition plan, however, sunsets next year. Cuomo, SUNY and CUNY are expected to ask the legislature to extend it in what will be one of the major initiatives of the 2016 legislative session.
"We are looking at what is actually needed to maintain a level of support," Glick said, a level "that ensures that the promise to students that, if they pay more -- and it's a big jump -- that the state will ensure the promise of more full-time faculty and additional sections of course work to make it easier to complete your degree in four years."
We'll see how this all plays out - you can pretty much bet Cuomo will look to pass most of the increased costs onto students and the Legislature, not exactly the bravest of assemblies in standing up to Cuomo, will agree to some "compromise" that continues to screw students and their families.
New York State used to have an excellent state university system that was very affordable.
The state continues to have an excellent university system, but the affordability part of the equation is by the wayside.
SUNY officials point out that SUNY remains cheaper than private schools in New York and some other state university systems.
But the affordability factor has still be eroded away over the years, helped greatly by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and that certainly doesn't help students from low income families having to take out $25,000+ in loans or their families who may be taking on debt for them as well.
Cuomo's always worried about his "legacy" - how he will be thought about in the future.
One big part of his legacy is what he hasn't done to help SUNY students and their families.
His SUNY legacy is, 30% higher tuition (and more hikes coming), SUNY costs up, and state aid held flat.