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Implementing a rational tuition policy makes sense

In my lifetime, I have been a professor, department chair, dean, provost and president at public universities in five different states. I have also been a public university student and the parent of public university students. So I am no stranger to concerns about tuition and accessible, high-quality public higher education.

Everything in my experience tells me that SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher's proposal of a five-year, responsible, predictable and fair tuition policy is in the best interest of today's students, future students and all citizens of New York. And it is absolutely the right decision for Buffalo State and its people.

I was proud to join the Buffalo State community because I knew this was an institution committed to quality and opportunity. Now, as Buffalo State's president, I'm more convinced than ever that the best way to preserve both -- to stay accessible and offer meaningful, transformative experiences to our students -- is to establish a reasonable plan for modest annual tuition increases.

Buffalo State students deserve predictability in tuition so that they can plan for the future. New York State has allowed tuition increases only 13 times in 48 years -- the smallest was 7 percent and the largest was 43 percent. Having some students experience no increase while others see a 43 percent jump in a single year is not fair to students, nor does it permit an institution to plan intelligently and deliberately for its future.

Modest annual increases in tuition will not price low-income students out of a college education. There are federal and state grants in aid, income tax credits and scholarships provided by individual institutions. And, at less than $5,000 per year, four years of college at Buffalo State costs less than a new Chevy Impala, but investing in education will return dividends for a lifetime.

The proposed policy will help those seeking a college education, and Western New York needs more college graduates. The research shows that a college-educated work force attracts 21st-century business and industry; college graduate unemployment is low; college graduates pay more taxes; and communities with more college graduates have higher average income at every educational level.

Of course we would prefer there were no tuition increases. In fact, we would prefer to return to the days when there was no tuition at all because the state felt responsible for providing educational opportunities through college.

But in the absence of sufficient state support, a plan of rational annual tuition increases is the best means of ensuring that future generations have access to high-quality public higher education and that communities such as ours grow a population ready for the world of the 21st century. It is the fairest and most responsible way to stimulate economic growth, quality jobs and quality of life. It is the right plan for us all.

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Aaron Podolefsky is president of Buffalo State College.

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