SUNY students are already lining up to protest the tuition hike that state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are reportedly getting ready to approve. They should hold their fire — especially if the measure includes an agreement allowing SUNY to keep all the money, and doesn’t cut aid to the university by an offsetting amount.
SUNY is no different from other universities, public or private: It needs more money every year to stay in business, and lots of it if it wants to excel. SUNY has been getting less money from the state in recent years, and practically every time the Legislature has approved a tuition hike, it has taken the lion’s share of the new money for general state operations.
While students have a right to be angry, so do most New Yorkers who rely on the Legislature for a fair shake. They haven’t been getting it, but now is probably not the time to expect things will change. On the other hand, if the Legislature agrees to let the university keep the full amount of regular tuition hikes going forward, and holds the line on operating aid over the same period, at least there’s a chance the university will be able to stop the bleeding of recent years.
SUNY tuition, currently $4,970, is still a relative bargain in the world of higher education. But it won’t be if the school’s coffers keep getting raided with every increase, or if aid — which has been cut nearly 35 percent over the past four years — continues falling. And regular, modest tuition hikes are better — both for school officials and for students — than whoppers every several years.