You get what you pay for.

That’s the simple concept behind President Samuel L. Stanley’s proposal to initiate a flexible tuition system on campus, giving the university significantly greater control of its tuition rates.

Language like that, “flexible tuition,” is sure to raise some red flags, and President Stanley readily admits that his proposal, should it be pursued, “probably means there will be a tuition increase.”

This comes on the heels of the very public and very vocal opposition to the last round of SUNY-wide increases, which raised tuition by $620 per student. Most of those additional funds went to New York State’s general fund and not to the 64 SUNY locations around the state.

Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University.
Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University.

But these increases would be different. Under the current system, the SUNY Board of Trustees, and to a lesser extent the state government in Albany, set the tuition rates for each campus in SUNY. Those rates are remarkably low, even for a public university, and do not allow for much in the way of growth within the university.

“It makes us difficult to be great,” said Stanley of the current tuition model.

A flexible tuition model like the one President Stanley is proposing would allow Stony Brook administration officials to set the tuition rates for students while maintaining its status as a publicly supported university. President Stanley made it very clear that the university has no intention of pursuing a conversion to a private university.

President Stanley is hardly the first prominent SUNY official to propose a flexible tuition model. Last spring, the University of Buffalo and local state officials in western New York introduced a bill in the State Senate that would give UB—and only UB—the ability to dictate its own tuition. The bill is the highlight of UB 2020, the university’s large-scale plan to expand the campus’ reach and improve its stature as a top-tier public university.

The bill, “UB 2020 Flexibility and Economic Growth Act,” is still being debated in Albany and has received both praise and harsh criticism from legislators around the state, but President Stanley voiced his strong support in favor of the legislation.

“I really support that concept,” he said. “[SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher] is really supportive of this concept.”

State Senators John Flanagan (R., NY 2nd) and Brian Foley (D., NY-3rd) could not be immediately reached, but when we get their response we will update this article.

President Stanley also sought to dispel any concerns about whether his proposal would affect the affordability of Stony Brook University, saying that he would ensure that any tuition increases that result from the change “does not stand in the way of students’ ability to afford an education.”


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