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Cuomo calls failure of SUNY funding plan ‘irrational’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo described the failure to extend by five years a tuition plan for the State University of New York system as “irrational,” and he pinned the failure on legislators who did not want to be perceived in an election year as having raised tuition.

Legislation known as NYSUNY 2020 allowed SUNY to raise tuition by $300 a year from 2011 to 2016 – bringing budgeting predictability to students and parents, as well as to state-operated campuses such as the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State. In the past, SUNY was subject to the whims of the state budget process, leading to financial challenges on campuses, often followed by large tuition spikes to remedy them.

“What happened was irrational,” Cuomo said Wednesday during an editorial board meeting at The Buffalo News. “The legislature did not want to renew rational tuition. If they don’t renew rational tuition, there is no tuition increase this year. They didn’t want to have a tuition increase this year so they didn’t renew rational tuition, which was the initial problem in the first place.”

The governor said the predictable tuition issue likely will be on the table again next year, Instead of pushing to extend it another five years, however, he said he would take a different approach.

“We could have the same problem,” Cuomo said. “It would be somewhat less because next year is not an election year. I agreed to the five years on rational tuition because we had never done it before and people didn’t know how it would work, so we came up with a five-year term,” he said. “Learning what we learned this year, I would say renew it next year with no term. Just renew it, because whenever it has to go back to the Legislature you’re going to have the same problem, where renewing rational tuition is tantamount to raising tuition.”