Reassessing the Cost of Higher Education

Cady Sharp Kuzmich, Editor-in-Chief

Our educational system is flawed to the bone.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a society that educates only those who can foot the bill. This type of system dissuades students raised in poverty from pursuing an education.

How is a system that treats education as a commodity just? Shouldn’t access to knowledge be free? Public libraries have the right idea.

Think my expectations are unrealistic? Last month Germany made higher education free. That’s right. Free. Germany’s decision extends to classes taught in English as well. So, unless you’re in the final stretch toward graduation, I’d recommend searching for some cheap flights to Frankfurt.

If an entire country can do away with college tuition, why can’t a supposedly progressive state like New York?

Some may argue that the higher taxes that come with free education would drive away successful individuals, but wouldn’t free education attract all sorts of talented and diverse individuals?

Sure, state universities like SUNY may offer less expensive options relative to some private schools, depending on the aid package and scholarships. I’m not arguing that SUNY is the main problem, although it is part of the equation. Education should not be privatized, yet the State University of New York continues to head in that direction.

On November 6, the SUNY board of trustees approved the fifth consecutive year of tuition increases under the SUNY 2020 Program, a five-year program signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011. The program purports to “land SUNY and the state of New York at the top of global standards for providing a world-class education and enabling vast economic growth for New Yorkers.” I’d bet most students are too heavily burdened by their student loans to even consider making any significant investments in their local economies after graduation. How are we helping the economy by chaining our nation’s youth to their student debt?

According to the State University of New York website, the average cost for tuition, room and board at SUNY schools is now $19,602 plus an additional $3,740 in indirect costs such as books, supplies and transportation. That adds up to an average of $23,072 per semester.

As the burdens on students continue to rise, the folks at the top are getting pay raises. Joseph Spector, the Albany Bureau Chief of the Democrat & Chronicle reported SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher may see her $490,000 salary rise as much as $200,000 in the coming year. According to See Through NY, our own President Kleniewski made $211,000 in 2013.

It’s important to note that Kleniewski’s salary is not exceptional — her pay is just a fraction of what some private school presidents receive. From 2009 to 2010, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson’s salary rose from $568,564 to $2,340,441 according to The Times Union.

We should be asking where our tuition dollars are going, whether to fund grants and student resources or to line the pockets of administrators.

It’s not only the SUNY system that’s flawed, the entire higher education system needs to be reconsidered and we need to do so collectively.  SUNY has the potential to serve as an example of a more just education system, but our leaders do not seem to be up to the challenge.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.