This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Simpson outlines support for tuition proposal

President says King’s plan helps students, parents deal with unpredictable hikes

Published: February 3, 2005

Contributing Editor

President John B. Simpson knows firsthand how parents and students can suffer from unpredictable tuition hikes such as the one faced by the SUNY system last year.

"My daughter was an out-of-state student at the University of California in the late '80s and I had the unfortunate situation of her tuition essentially doubling in the four years that she was a student. It was a nightmare for me as a parent," Simpson told the Faculty Senate on Tuesday.

That's why Simpson supports a plan proposed by SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King that would set a four-year tuition rate for first-year undergraduate students at UB, and would adjust the rate for subsequent incoming classes according to the Higher Education Price Index, a national index of annual education costs.

"Students and their families—or whoever is helping them get through the institution—have a sense of what the tuition is going to be when they enter the university and for the four years that they are here, that tuition rate will remain the same," Simpson told senators.

The tuition plan also differentiates between the higher costs of educating students at doctoral-granting institutions such as UB, "because of our research mission," and four-year colleges, Simpson said.

The plan includes "what amounts to a compact, a covenant, with the state by which the state agrees to pay increases in basic costs, particularly increases in the cost of energy and increases in costs due to negotiated labor salary agreements," he said.

"What I think is at the very core of this proposal is institutional quality," Simpson said. "All of us know ultimately that a university's quality in its research, in its teaching, in its public service, is directly related to its finances. If you can't hire faculty and support them, you do not have a quality university. And in turn, the quality of a university, I believe, directly influences the effect that it has on the world around it."

Acknowledging current debate regarding what the tuition hike should be at the starting point, 2005-06, Simpson emphasized that the plan's long-range effects outweigh the initial increase.

"From my point of view as a professor and as a university president, this is probably not the most important question. This is not to mean that what students pay next year is not important because it is. It is to say that over the long term, the stability in budget from the point of view of students' predictability or the university's predictability is to my mind the most important aspect of this proposal.

"What it does do for the first time is allow SUNY to have some control and some predictability over its budget and over its ability to plan over a multiyear period."

Finally, Simpson noted that his support of the plan is contingent on its including "a means of dealing with financial aid so that tuition increases do not price students out of access to this, a public university."

In other business at Tuesday's senate meeting, Satish K. Tripathi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, reported that Mission Review II, the second part of a SUNY-mandated planning program for its member institutions, will include proposals to hire 250 additional faculty members at the university and to increase the dollar amount of stipends paid to graduate students.