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Vice-Chancellor’s visit spotlights tuition guarantee plan

By : Cait Anastis


SUNY Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Capaldi
A tuition guarantee proposal by State University of New York Chancellor Robert King would improve the quality of education for students while allowing students and their parents to better plan for college. SUNY Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Capaldi, filling in for the ailing chancellor, rolled out the plan for a crowd of more than 270 people in Binghamton Thursday.

The chancellor’s plan seeks to link annual tuition increases to the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which averages about 4 percent over five years, and then freeze tuition rates for each year’s incoming students for the duration of their defined degree programs.

According to Capaldi, the proposal would remedy the state’s historical pattern of extended periods without tuition increases, followed by large, unpredictable increases. “In past years, we’ve had tuition increases just to offset the drop in state support,” she said. “This tuition guarantee plan will improve the quality of educational experiences while providing predictability for students and families.”

Also being proposed is a plan to gradually implement a differential tuition rate for students at doctoral-granting universities, such as Binghamton, to compensate for the higher cost of education on those campuses. Currently, students at doctoral universities pay the same rate as non-doctoral institutions.

“That means the students at a doctoral campus are paying a smaller portion of their educational costs,” Capaldi said.

If approved, the plan will take place over time, with tuition at doctoral-granting campuses eventually rising to one-and-a-half times the tuition at non-doctoral campuses. “It would take 22 years for the doctoral campuses to reach one-and-one-half times the regular rate,” she said.

In making the case for the change in tuition to support continued academic quality at SUNY’s colleges and universities, Capaldi highlighted some of the system’s accomplishments. SUNY freshman state-wide outperform their peers nationwide, entering college with an average SAT score of 1142, compared to 1026 nationally, she said. Binghamton students best that, entering college with an average SAT score of 1250, and Binghamton is also ranked third of the nation’s 163 public doctoral campuses for four-year graduation rates.

“We’ve been putting a lot of effort into getting the best students in New York,” she said.

The effort is paying off as applications increase. In 2004, 64,929 New York college-bound high school students will apply to SUNY schools and at Binghamton more than 20,000 applications have already been received for the 2005-06 year.

“Our job is to give the citizens of New York an opportunity to get an education. We are the gateway to opportunity,” she said.

As demand increases, so does the need for funding, said Capaldi, but the chan-cellor’s budget request strikes a balance between state funding and tuition revenue. She noted that the growth in fixed costs such as contractual agreements, energy and mandated costs would be covered by the chancellor’s request for $85 million in funding from the state; the growth in new resources to invest in academic quality would come from the tuition guarantee.

However, even with the proposed changes, SUNY tuition would still remain lower than its neighboring states, allowing the SUNY system to remain competitive, Capaldi said.

Students at SUNY’s university centers, including Binghamton, currently pay $5,726 in tuition and fees. In com-parison, Rhode Island students pay $6,752; Massachusetts students pay $9,008; and students at Vermont and Pennsylvania public universities pay nearly double the rate of New York at $10,226 and $10,856 respectively.

In addition to tuition increases, SUNY also needs to continue to pursue funding from additional sources, including sponsored research dollars, Capaldi said. Since 1995, the amount of external funding received for research has climbed 85 percent system-wide, from $461.3 million to $854.2 million.

“To be as good as we want to be we have to generate funds,” she said. “Sponsored research is part of that. I think we have to raise our sights and understand that is how we’re going to function in the future.”

It also means institutions will have to take different approaches to moving research from the labs to the marketplace.

“We have terrific research,” she said. “We produce patents, but we don’t take the final step and create companies that get them into the market. We have to get help from the business com-munities to make sure that if there’s a really good idea, somebody helps get it into the market.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08