Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed state budget looks to increase tuition at the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) by 3%. While students and legislators have bemoaned these increases, the chancellors of both academic institutions defended them at a budget hearing on Monday, February 27th. There has not been an increase in tuition since 2019 and the one proposed in the budget would see $97 million added to the state university system.
“Fundamentally, SUNY is deeply committed to affordability,” SUNY Chancellor John King said. “And we stand out in how affordable SUNY is by comparison to other public ed [and] higher education systems. That said, campuses need a reliable, predictable set of expectations around revenue.”
As things stand, 53% of students at both universities do not pay their own tuition, receiving financial aid from the Pell Grants and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The Chancellor of CUNY said those who would be affected by a tuition increase would be protected.
“If you think about our community colleges, the tuition will still be under TAP,” said CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez. “So, probably around 80% of the students will not see a tuition increase in the community colleges, which is the sector we are most concerned with because of enrollment.”
For several reasons, legislators and students do not see this as an opportune time to increase tuition. The high cost of living and the COVID-19 pandemic has left a negative financial impact on students and families. Enrollment has decreased for CUNY, a trend that is generally affecting more than one level of education in New York, losing approximately 100,000 students since the beginning of the pandemic. An increase in tuition would be a stumbling block in preventing the loss of students according to legislators.
“How will a tuition increase help reverse the trend of declining enrollment and bring the students back to SUNY and to CUNY, and I ask that question of both of you,” State Senator Toby Stavisky, a Queens Democrat, asked the chancellors.
Middle class students would be affected by the increase as they do not qualify for the financial support offered to those from lower-earning backgrounds. “Yes, I am really concerned about these tuition hikes,” said Salimatou Doumbouya, a CUNY student. “They are definitely going to harm the student population. Being the chairperson of the University Student Senate, we have always been against any tuition hikes.”