Officials mull tuition hikes, economic development at SUNY

Prisons, a property tax cap, and Medicaid reform figured largely into Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address earlier this month.

But New York's new governor is also taking a careful look at the State University of New York system as he prepares his first executive budget.

Early reports indicate that Cuomo may propose a tuition increase for the state's public universities as he looks to address a budget deficit now projected at close to $11 billion.

Deborah Glick chairs the Assembly's Higher Education Committee. She told reporters last week that she is concerned Cuomo's budget could reduce financial aid for students while not adequately funding the SUNY system. Her colleague in the state Senate, Kenneth LaValle, said the state must invest in SUNY schools - which he called "economic engines."

Enrollment has steadily increased at four-year schools and community colleges - despite flat or reduced state spending.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said rumors that Cuomo may hike tuition are circulating in Albany, but he hasn't released anything concrete yet.

She says that if Cuomo does present a proposal to increase tuition, it will be looked at seriously.

"Do I like to think that tuition is going to go up? No - I have grandchildren in college and its tough enough for these kids to get a good education," Sayward said. "But there's no money. We're going to have some tough decisions to make. This is just one proposal of his that we're going to see. We're also going to see a smorgasbord of cuts that we'll have to consider."

LaValle says increasing tuition to balance the state's budget is inappropriate, noting that money from past hikes was used outside of the SUNY system.

Sayward says additional revenue gained through a potential tuition hike must go back to the state's public universities.

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