Cuomo Signs NYSUNY 2020 Legislation

August 9, 2011 Updated Aug 9, 2011 at 2:09 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Cuomo Signs NYSUNY 2020 Legislation

August 9, 2011 Updated Aug 9, 2011 at 2:09 PM EDT

Albany, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced he signed legislation to implement the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program and institute a rational tuition plan for SUNY and CUNY.

The new law will help New York's public universities become a leading catalyst for regionally-focused economic development while maintaining affordability and improving academic quality for all students.

The NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program – a joint program between the Governor and SUNY – incentivizes bottom-up, individualized, long-term economic development plans on SUNY campuses and the surrounding communities. The new rational tuition program replaces decades of unpredictable and sudden tuition hikes, allowing students and parents to better plan for college expenses.

"New York State's universities are the jewel of our state's educational system, and with this bill the SUNY system will now be perfectly positioned to become the engine of economic growth across the state," Cuomo said. "The $140 million in new capital funding will build these schools into America's leading institutions of research and innovation, while also creating jobs for New Yorkers and improving our state's economic competitiveness. Under the new tuition plan, students and parents will be able to reasonably plan for college expenses instead of being subject to the dramatic tuition increases and uncertainty of the past."

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said: "Today, in signing the NYSUNY 2020 bill, Governor Cuomo has instituted fair, rational, and predictable tuition reform in New York State, providing peace of mind for SUNY students and their families. For the first time in state history, the university centers of SUNY have an opportunity to seize multiple-year funding to do what they do best - act as catalysts for a stronger, more competitive New York. We applaud the Governor's economic vision and assure all New Yorkers that SUNY is equal to the task."

SUNY Student Assembly President Kaitlyn Beachner said: "Today Governor Cuomo is signing a law that will bring rationality and predictability to the SUNY tuition system, helping students and parents to better financially prepare for college. For decades, sudden tuition hikes have been detrimental to SUNY students, and this legislation shows that Albany is committed to a tuition system that benefits students and is dedicated toward investing in SUNY institutions across the state. The newly established revolving loan fund at a low interest rate will protect low income students, and this legislation ensures that accessibility for all students remains intact despite potential tuition increases. Governor Cuomo has time and time again shown unwavering dedication to respecting the voice of SUNY students and I look forward to continuing this partnership."

The new law enacts a rational tuition plan that allows each SUNY and CUNY campus to raise tuition by $300 per year for five years, replacing an era of sudden tuition increases with a system that is predictable and empowers students and parents to plan for college expenses.

For the past 20 years, the average annual SUNY tuition increase has been 6.7 percent, well above the five-year, $300 increases included in this legislation. During that time, there were periods without tuition increases followed by sudden and dramatic tuition spikes of up to 40 percent. Such spikes and uncertainty in tuition is detrimental to students, families, and the university system. The NYSUNY 2020 legislation prevents these types of unpredictable tuition hikes from reoccurring.

The law will maintain affordability by establishing tuition credits, which will require SUNY and CUNY to apply a credit against the tuition charged to a student. The amount of the applicable tuition credit will be based on the level of a student's tuition assistance program award.

University Centers at Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook will additionally be able to implement a rational "plus" tuition plan by including an additional three percent increase (based upon a $75 fee and an up to 10 percent tuition increase for out-of-state students) annually for five years, conditioned on the approval of their NYSUNY 2020 applications by the Governor and SUNY Chancellor. As a condition of approval, the University Centers are required to include other financial aid plans to qualify for the rational "plus" program.

The act authorizes $80 million in capital funding for the four University Centers that will be granted subject to the approval of the NYSUNY 2020 applications. Combined with the additional $60 million in existing SUNY funds, the total Challenge Grant Program investment totals $140 million.

The law additionally requires strong conflict of interest policies for implementation of the program. Decisions regarding NYSUNY 2020 challenge grant awards will be made in the coming weeks.