Tuition and quality in undergraduate education
This year, for the first time in seven years, annual tuition for SUNY undergraduates went up-from $3,400 to $4,350 for in-state students, and from $8,300 to $10,300 for out-of-state students. Annual tuition and fees now stand at $5,851 for a full-time, in-state UB undergraduate student, an increase of 21 percent. Though the increase is substantial, some perspective is called for. It is important to point out that even with the increase, tuition and fees at UB are less than the average of $5,980 for tuition and fees charged by our peers among the public universities of the American Association of Universities (AAU).
Furthermore, the increase at UB was not the largest percentage increase this year by any means. The entire California system increased tuition and fees by more than 34 percent. Within the AAU, the largest percentage increase was at the University of Arizona, which saw a 39 percent increase. This widespread increase in tuition at top-notch public institutions does not result from greed, or from operating costs that have gone up at a comparable rate. Rather, these increases result from lower levels of state support. At UB, for instance, the tuition increase was commensurate with the decrease in state support.
Nonetheless, UB managed to provide increased funding to most academic programs. This was done by increasing our revenue generation through various initiatives that included increased enrollment in popular summer programs, increased private support, bolstered research funding and continued efforts to become more efficient in our administration.
Before the tuition increase was enacted, there were dire predictions that SUNY and UB would lose students. According to these pessimistic forecasts, not only would new students not come, but also current students would leave because of the increased price of attendance.
However, this gloomy scenario has not occurred. Instead, UB has a record size freshman class-3,581 students, the largest freshman class ever at our institution. Moreover, this is also the best qualified freshman class in more than 20 years. The average SAT score increased to 1164 for enrolled students, while the mean high school GPA of 91 for entering students is much higher than last year. Furthermore, retention rates for continuing students showed improvement.
Our large entering class is the result of many more students accepting our offer of admission than had previously been the case-a number we express as the "yield," or the percentage of those students admitted who actually enroll. Our yield increased by five percent, compared to very consistent and predictable yields in years past. What's more, the yield went up particularly for the better-qualified students. Also, more students from metro New York City and Eastern New York State, plus more out-of-state students than in the past, enrolled.
All these measures attest to the high quality of education offered at UB. The large increase in applications did not occur at other SUNY University Centers. While UB's freshman applications increased by 8.4 percent, Binghamton's were up only 3.6 percent. Stony Brook's went up slightly-.4 percent-while Albany's decreased by the same small percentage. Interestingly, large increases in both applications and yields did occur at other major public research institutions-including Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Michigan.
Our experience in 2003 indicates that students and their parents are recognizing the superior quality of education offered at UB as they select an institution. It further demonstrates that a price increase did not prevent students from applying and attending UB. In part, this is because our major competitor universities also raised tuition and our tuition is still relatively low. Compared to our neighbors, UB is an incredible buy. For example, current tuition and fees at Penn State are $9,706; at Pittsburgh, $9,274; and at Rutgers, $7,927.
Another method for comparing UB's price with that of other universities is to calculate the student's share of his or her cost of education. At Ohio State, tuition and fees make up 26 percent of the operating revenues; at Penn State, 34 percent; at Rutgers, 29 percent; and at the University of Massachusetts, 28 percent. At UB, tuition and fees make up only 21 percent of our revenue.
The key issue in a tuition increase is to maintain access, which is the fundamental mission of public education. New York State has a very generous tuition assistance program and UB is also committed to maintaining access, even as costs increase. A portion of tuition dollars are committed to financial aid to ensure that access is not diminished even when tuition is increased. To do less would be to fail to provide access to a college education to the citizens of New York State, and to fail in our role in society, which is to allow as many qualified citizens as possible the opportunity for a fulfilling life that a college education provides.
Elizabeth D. Capaldi