The News story on SUNY's tuition policy raises an issue that has bothered me ever since I became employed at Buffalo State College in 1990 -- differential tuition. All undergraduates at SUNY state colleges and university centers pay the same tuition, yet the centers receive significantly more state aid.
I attended (and taught at) institutions in the California system, where differential tuition is employed. Undergraduates at Cal State institutions pay about 38 percent of the tuition and fees paid by undergraduates at the universities of California. This reflects two important goals: the university centers cost more to operate; and lower tuition at the state colleges creates greater access for all residents. The California system ranks as one of the best in the world. Differential tuition has had a positive impact.
The SUNY tuition policy implies that students attending state colleges subsidize those attending university centers. For example, about 30 percent of Buffalo State's operating budget is state-subsidized compared with about 50 percent of UB's budget. Differential tuition should be instituted to better reflect the cost differentials at each institution and create greater access for all.
Department of Economics
Buffalo State College