ALBANY – The State University of New York wants to let its 29 two- and four-year colleges raise tuition in each of the next four years by $100, $200 or $300, depending on what each campus wants.
The plan is expected to be considered later this week by the SUNY Board of Trustees as part of the colleges' proposed 2017-18 budget plan -- which also seeks an 11 percent increase in state aid.
Also, SUNY wants a $6 billion capital plan over five years to upgrade the 64-campus system, including at teaching hospitals.
The proposal is made in the context of "issues such as college affordability, student success and investment by states in their institutions of public higher education," SUNY said in its 26-page request.
State lawmakers were opposed this year to higher SUNY tuition after the price tag rose $300 in each of the last five years -- a $1,500 increase, or 30 percent, since 2010 on the campuses.
And the heads of the Legislature's higher education committees earlier this month were leery of another round of tuition increases next year amid opposition from some student groups and protests on campuses.
Tuition is $6,470 at the four-year colleges.
SUNY tuition, room and board increased from an average of $13,275 in the 2005-06 school year to $20,549 in 2014-15 school year, a 55 percent increase, a state report in September found.
During the five-year stretch of tuition increases, enrollment fell 3.5 percent while staffing rose about 2 percent.
SUNY's proposal for next year seeks a five-year extension of SUNY 2020, the initiative first implemented in 2011 that allowed for the so-called "rational tuition" increases of $300 a year.
SUNY 2020 expired this year, and state lawmakers didn't renew it.
Instead of a straight $300 a year increase, SUNY's new plan would allow campuses to seek either $100, $200 or $300 increases. Community colleges set their own tuition.
If approved by the state Legislature during the six-month session that starts in January, the SUNY Board of Trustees would then "review annually, but approval shall always be subject to the cap for each basket."
The effort is part of SUNY's ongoing fight to have more control over tuition increases.
The state Legislature has to sign off on any hikes, and SUNY has complained that tuition has therefore been sporadic and tied to the whims of state lawmakers.
But legislators have been loathe to give up the power, even as SUNY officials suggested earlier this month that they should have autonomy from the Legislature.
“SUNY’s proposed 2017/2018 budget request, which requires its Board of Trustees approval, is designed to provide predictability for our students, both in terms of investment and tuition rates," said SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis.
Meanwhile, SUNY is seeking an 11 percent increase in state aid -- raising it from nearly $1.6 billion to nearly $1.8 billion.
The largest piece, $84 million, would go to the two- and four-year colleges as part of SUNY's "investment in student success."
SUNY is also seeking a so-called "maintenance of effort" that would hold it harmless from any budget cuts.
The money, SUNY claims, would help bolster its programs and fund a likely new union contract with its professors and staff, estimated at a cost of about $40 million a year.
The proposal, once approved by SUNY, would be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will present his budget proposal in mid January for the fiscal year that starts April 1.
The state Legislature has until March 31 to approve an on-time budget, which includes SUNY spending.