State University of New York schools should be charging out-of-state students substantially more so that state taxpayers aren't subsidizing them, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said here Tuesday.
SUNY schools charge out-of-state students $8,463 a year less than comparable public colleges and universities in other states and could reduce tuition for state residents by $250 a year by increasing out-of-state tuition, DiNapoli said.
In a report released Tuesday morning, DiNapoli said 29 comparable public colleges in 19 states charge an average of $21,333 for out-of-state tuition, while SUNY charges just $12,870 -- or $8,463 less.
By phasing in an $8,463-a-year increase over four years, SUNY could generate $340 million in additional revenue, DiNapoli said. If half that revenue was passed on as savings to in-state students, tuition for New Yorkers could be cut by $1,000 over four years, he added.
"SUNY schools are a great way for students to get a quality education, but New York taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing out-of-state students," DiNapoli said. "Why should New York taxpayers foot the bill for a bargain education for students from New Jersey or California?"
But David Henahan, a SUNY spokesman, described DiNapoli's argument as faulty, since in the last two budget years SUNY was allowed to keep just 10 percent and 20 percent of the revenue raised through tuition increases.
"To achieve the goals set out by the comptroller, SUNY would need to keep all of the tuition increase, and SUNY campuses would need the flexibility to charge different out-of-state tuition based on institution type," Henahan said.
Most states allow different campuses to charge different out-of-state tuition rates, and "SUNY seeks this same flexibility in order to maximize revenue for our campuses and ensure quality and access," he added.
He said SUNY officials appreciate that DiNapoli "recognizes the quality of a SUNY education and the importance of continued access for New Yorkers."
SUNY raised out-of-state tuition by $2,260 this school year.
But educators said further substantial increases could be difficult to justify because SUNY -- which lacks high-profile flagship campuses -- traditionally has had difficulty attracting students from a broad national base.
In contrast, other states -- including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia -- more readily attract out-of-state applicants with high-powered sports teams, landmark campuses, deep-seated traditions and alumni loyalty.
DiNapoli's study, for example, compares costs at Geneseo State College and Binghamton University with, among other schools, the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin.
DiNapoli said in-state SUNY tuition -- now $4,970 -- has risen 231 percent since 1990, while out-of-state tuition -- now $12,870 -- increased just 165 percent.