Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed legislation for the State University of New York is a reasonable plan for SUNY and prospective students.
The Rational Tuition Plan, which would increase tuition by more than 25 percent over five years at most SUNY campuses, would provide much-needed revenue after state cuts of nearly 30 percent over the last three years.
Meanwhile, it would allow families ample time to plan for the tuition hikes adding $2,230 over five years to the annual cost at most campuses and $4,370 at the university centers — Buffalo, Binghamton, Albany and Stony Brook. That is a key element: in the past, tuition remained the same for several years, only to be raised significantly and suddenly, complicating college planning for families.
Under the governor's proposal, there would be no surprises: people would know what to expect and be able to plan accordingly.
To help students pay for the increases, the state would provide a loan fund. Students with the most financial need could receive full coverage under the Tuition Assistance Program.
SUNY's current costs are very reasonable at more than $15,000 a year for tuition, fees, room and board. That is less than most public universities across the country.
But no public university can endure a 30 percent reduction in state financing, keep tuition at current levels and still be expected to maintain academic quality and stride confidently into the future. The mission cannot go forward under those circumstances: it would be mission impossible.
Tuition increases at the state university are inevitable. It would be better if each campus were allowed to assess its needs, chart its course and raise tuition accordingly. Barring that, Gov. Cuomo's approach is a reasonable one for all concerned.
Approval of the bill must ensure that all of the money raised through tuition increases will go to the university and not to the state's general fund.
The state Legislature should pass the governor's Rational Tuition Plan, which, in truth, involves more than tuition: it would allow SUNY to move forward with certainty and purpose.