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SUNY2020 law hopes to enhance academic achievement, drive economic development across NYS

By WKTV News

ALBANY, N.Y. - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation to implement the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program and institute what he calls "a rational tuition plan" for SUNY and CUNY schools.

Cuomo's office says 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 is a joint program between the Governor and SUNY and incentivizes bottom-up, individualized, long-term economic development plans on SUNY campuses and the surrounding communities.

SUNYIT President Wolf Yeigh reacted to the signing with the following statement:

“I applaud Governor Cuomo’s leadership and his support of the State University of New York. Rational tuition for SUNY will enable our students and their parents to avoid the unpredictable changes in the cost of a college education that were all too common in the past," President Yeigh said. "Thanks to Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Zimpher, NYSUNY2020 points the way to a bright future for public higher education in New York.”

The new rational tuition program replaces decades of unpredictable and sudden tuition hikes, allowing students and parents to better plan for college expenses, Cuomo's office stated Tuesday.

"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," Governor 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."

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.

Herkimer County Community College President Ann Marie Murray in regard to Governor Cuomo’s signing of the NYSUNY 2020 Legislation.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for making the NYSUNY 2020 program a reality today. This program clearly supports SUNY’s strategic plan and Chancellor Zimpher’s pledge for SUNY to be an economic driver for New York State.," said Herkimer County Community College President Dr. Ann Marie Murray. "The ability of our community college students to anticipate tuition costs helps them make informed decisions on how to complete their advanced degrees within our system. By keeping our students within SUNY, they can continue to work and live in New York State contributing to its economy for the benefit of all.”

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 re-occurring, Cuomo's office 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," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. "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."

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 (TAP) 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.

"Our SUNY schools are one of our state's greatest assets; they provide our future innovators and leaders with a quality, affordable education while partnering with communities statewide and driving our local economies," said Senator Seward. "Establishing a rational tuition policy will aid students and parents as they plan for the cost of a college education."

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.

"SUNY is also a crucial component of our local economies - with an estimated $20 billion impact statewide," Senator Seward said. "This legislation guarantees additional partnerships that will allow these economic engines to grow and thrive."

The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating more than 467,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs on 64 campuses with nearly 3 million alumni around the globe.

The new law takes effect immediately and will expire in five years.

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