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UB advocating for expansion of rational tuition policy

Members of the women's soccer team and their coaches pose for a photo at the UB Council meeting. Pictured are, from left: Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator Kathy Twist, head coach Shawn Burke, Athletic Director Danny White, senior Megan Giesen, senior Courtney Mann, assistant coach Casey Derkacz, UB Council Chairman Jeremy Jacobs and President Satish Tripathi. The council approved a resolution congratulating the team on winning the MAC Championship. Photo: Paul Hokanson

By SUE WUETCHER

Published March 12, 2015

President Satish K. Tripathi on Monday briefed the UB Council on the university’s 2015-16 legislative agenda, which includes an expansion of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NYSUNY 2020 rational tuition policy and more money for capital projects that would allow the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Work to move to the South Campus.

UB’s legislative priorities, Tripathi told council members, also include support for two SUNY-wide initiatives — the SUNY Investment Fund and the Master Innovators Program — both modeled on successful UB programs implemented with funds made available through NYSUNY 2020.

SUNY is asking the state for $50 million for the investment fund, which would support student success programs like UB’s “Finish in 4” program, and $10 million for the innovators program, which would provide funding for campuses to hire world-class faculty innovators working in high-impact research fields, similar to UB’s successful cluster-hiring strategy.

As part of its advocacy agenda, UB also is asking for an increase of 4.66 percent in its state operating funds — a 2 percent increase is the minimum needed to meet inflation costs as reflected in the Higher Education Price Index. The operating increase is essential, the university says, to maintain current commitments and provide resources to cover collective bargaining increases.

Expansion of the rational tuition plan would continue for five years the current policy of increasing tuition annually by a modest, fixed amount — UB has raised tuition $300 annually since the policy was approved by the legislature in 2011. The policy benefits both the university and students by enabling students and their families to better plan for the costs of higher education while providing UB with budget stability.

Tripathi pointed out that before the rational tuition policy was implemented, tuition had increased randomly anywhere from 14 percent to 30 percent in a given year, and in the previous 20 years the average tuition increase was almost 8 percent. And students did not have advance warning of a tuition increase, he added.

Tuition still remains affordable, Tripathi said, noting that UB students are among those with the least amount of debt — averaging around $20,000 when the national average is around $30,000. Moreover, the loan default rate for UB students is 4.5 percent, one-third the national average.

“This means our tuition is affordable and it also means we are preparing our students for the job market — they are able to pay back the loans that they have,” he said.

As part of the tuition policy, UB also promises to invest in need-based financial aid so that students can afford these tuition increases.

Tripathi explained that under NYSUNY 2020, tuition revenue that comes in now stays on campus, rather than being diverted to state coffers. This increased funding is being used to hire additional faculty, as well as invest in student support programs like “Finish in 4,” he said.

In its capital request, UB is seeking $100 million a year for five years to repair, maintain and improve campus facilities and create modern spaces for students, faculty and staff. This includes:

  • $15 million to go toward renovation of Townsend, Parker, Crosby, Allen and Squire halls and to move the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Work to the South Campus.
  • $35 million to implement the Student Learning and Innovation Project. Already underway, the project, also called the Heart of the Campus, is enhancing the student learning experience by renovating Capen Hall library space and creating a “one-stop shop” for student services on the ground floor of the building.
  • $50 million for critical maintenance across all three campuses.

Tripathi explained that when UB began planning for the move of the medical school downtown and the creation of an Academic Health Center in the heart of the city, “we also realized that there’s a lot more work to be done on the South Campus.” With this five-year capital plan, he said, “we can begin to fill this gap by shifting key programs from the overcrowded North Campus to the South Campus” to also ensure a vibrant environment on the South Campus.

In other business, the council unanimously passed a resolution congratulating the women’s soccer team for winning the Mid-American Conference Championship and earning a berth in the NCAA tournament.