New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced a plan in January to increase tuition for all four State University of New York (SUNY) research universities, including Stony Brook University, by 30% over the next five years.
The decision comes after SUNY previously announced increased tuition for out-of-state students. It allows SUNY’s four research universities — Stony Brook University, Binghamton University, the University at Buffalo and the University at Albany — to increase tuition by 6% every year for the next five years. SUNY’s 60 other campuses will be permitted to increase tuition by 3% every year.
The increase will not affect students receiving free tuition under the Excelsior Scholarship and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). However, any student who does not qualify for these programs will see an increase in cost.
The move has faced backlash from some Stony Brook students. The timing of the announcement coincided with the Stony Brook administration announcing the addition of a new paid parking program for the upcoming 2023 fall semester, which was also met with some resistance.
In particular, the Stony Brook College Socialists have been trying to mobilize pressure against the tuition increase.
Amanda Basinger, the president of the College Socialists and a senior double majoring in economics and applied math and statistics, said many students who picked Stony Brook for the price will feel financially overwhelmed.
“I feel like a lot of people pick [Stony Brook] because it’s an affordable option,” Basinger said. “It’s a great school, but people came here because they could afford it. But now, with these increases in pricing, who can afford it now? You know, people are already struggling to make ends meet, and [they’re] going to raise it by 30%. I mean, that’s insane.”
In response to the tuition hikes, the College Socialists helped organize protests on campus, hung posters, started a petition to reverse the tuition increase and are working with Young Democratic Socialists of America chapters at different SUNY campuses to collaborate on a campaign against the tuition increase.
According to the New York Fiscal Year 2024 budget, the tuition increase is necessary amid rising inflation and operating costs.
“New York deserves the best public higher education system and Governor Hochul is committed to building world class, equitable institutions. Governor Hochul’s plan for CUNY and SUNY ensures that no student receiving a full TAP award or an Excelsior scholarship will experience additional tuition costs, while also providing for the long-term future and fiscal stability of public higher education in New York,” Hochul’s office said in a public statement.
Charles Mercuirio, a junior majoring in history, expressed his frustration with the tuition increases.
“I’m going to be enraged [because of that],” Mercuirio said. “[It isn’t] good. I mean, as well as making me poor, it will probably build my blood pressure. So thanks, Governor.”
The announcement comes after previous reports of fiscal struggles within the SUNY system. Last fall, United University Professions, SUNY’s system-wide employer’s union, started a campaign to raise operating funds for several SUNY campuses facing multimillion dollar deficits.
SUNY has also seen declining enrollment system wide, particularly with community colleges, where enrollment was down 34% between 2011 and 2021. However, Stony Brook, Binghamton and Buffalo have all seen opposite trends in enrollment, with significant growth at all three universities.
In an email to The Statesman, Joan Behan-Duncan, a media relations specialist for Stony Brook, said that while it was not yet clear what Stony Brook would receive from increased operating costs and tuition increases, they would use any increased revenue for the benefit of students.
“The top priority would be to cover the tuition increases for students who are eligible for aid, thereby ensuring that they are not absorbing additional financial burden,” Behan-Duncan said. “The second priority would be to restore faculty and staff reductions in crucial academic, research and operational service areas caused by the last decade of static operating aid, minimal tuition increases and mandated unfunded salary increases.”
The operating aid SUNY provides to Stony Brook has not increased since the fiscal year 2012 budget, remaining at $147 million since then.
Paolo Feldkamp, a freshman majoring in psychology, described how tuition increases were hurting him as an out-of-state student.
“I think it’s pretty unfair because as an out-of-state student, there were a lot of considerations to make when I was deciding where to go,” Feldkamp said. “And there was a lot of careful financial planning that went into me deciding to come here between scholarships and total costs. And all of that kind of feels pointless now if they can just change things after we’ve already decided to come. If I do end up transferring to a different school, this is probably going to be one of the major factors contributing to that.”
The final version of the budget is due on April 1.
The Statesman reached out to several Stony Brook administrators for comments but did not receive any responses.