UB's Mid-Year Tuition Hike Delayed; Now Effective Spring 2012

The Spectrum

After UB unsuccessfully tried to retroactively raise students' tuition for the fall semester after it was already over, it will have to settle for a tuition hike that takes effect this semester.

On Dec. 12, UB informed students via email that they would be billed a new Academic Excellence fee ($37.50 per semester for full-time students and pro-rated for part-time students) for both the fall 2011 semester and the spring 2012 semester.

In addition, the email said tuition for undergraduate out-of-state students would increase by 10 percent for the entire 2011-2012 academic year even though classes for the fall semester had already come to an end.

Seven hundred out-of-state undergraduates and 1,600 international undergraduates would have been charged an additional $670 for the fall semester.

However, on Dec. 20, the Office of Student Accounts sent UB students another email, saying the charges for the fall semester would no longer be billed, and the new tuition fees would instead be effective for only the spring semester. The same statement was posted on the Student Accounts website, but there was no explanation as to why the retroactive fee was revoked.

John Della Contrada, UB's assistant vice president for media relations, gave The Spectrum this explanation in an email:

"The new fee and tuition increases were authorized under the rational tuition plan adopted by the SUNY Board of Trustees," Della Contrada said. "The adoption of this plan under the NYSUNY 2020 bill authorizes UB and other SUNY schools to implement the new fee and new tuition.

"We received clarification from SUNY regarding the timing of the increase last semester," Della Contrada continued. "As a result, we did not bill students for the tuition increase and academic excellence and success fee for the fall semester. We notified students about this decision as soon as it was made and worked to answer any questions they had."

Della Contrada said UB thought it was allowed to implement the new fee and raise out-of-state tuition for the fall semester after Governor Andrew Cuomo approved UB's NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant in December. This led to the initial email to the student body. SUNY then clarified to the university that it could not raise tuition for the fall semester and directed UB to implement the changes for the spring semester, according to Della Contrada.

Paul Stephan, a junior urban and public policy studies major from Ohio and the Student Association's environmental director, was displeased by the lack of notice UB gave students, although his tuition is covered by scholarship.

"Charging students ex post facto for a semester is ridiculous," Stephan said in an email. "I'm glad they retracted the Academic Excellence and Success fee for the fall, but it's shocking that they tried it in the first place.

"I'm also upset by the lack of transparency," Stephan continued. "Before we get slapped with another tuition increase, I'd like to see UB's budget. Is our money going to hefty administrative salaries and the UB Foundation, or is it actually being spent for the betterment of the university?"

Delaney Marsco, a senior history and English major from Ohio, was also bothered by the tuition increase. She uses student loans to fund the costs of her education, and she feels this tuition increase is targeting out-of-state students.

"I feel as though imposing such a charge for out-of-state students demonstrates how poorly out-of-state students are treated – despite the fact that a part of UB 2020 is to augment out-of-state enrollment," Marsco said in an email. "It seems as though the school is attempting to increase its prestige by upping tuition, but the reality is that this fee is working against the democratization of higher learning."

The tuition fee increase will have many outcomes, including adding more faculty members, extending library hours, maintaining current bus schedules, improving cleanliness in hallways and classrooms, improving technology in classrooms, increasing online course options, increasing amount of scholarships to students with financial need, and increasing internship opportunities, according to the Provost's Office.

Steven Jackson, a sophomore history major and the speaker of the SA assembly, pays for his own tuition and supports UB's tuition increase.

"UB is definitely trying to increase the value of the education they offer, and we shouldn't be too overwhelmed by this," Jackson said. "UB is still tremendously cheap as far as fees go, compared to other schools…The way they delivered the news was perfect. A great use of email communication."

Under the old tuition policy, revenue from tuition increases was kept by the New York State government, instead of being directly given to the campuses, according to Della Contrada.

Della Contrada said the new policy will provide new and predictable tuition increases that will remain on the campuses and will be invested in students' education; not only will campus-wide services be affected, but the revenue will be used to fund financial aid for needy students. Programs will be created to help students who need immediate or emergency financial assistance, he added.

"We did receive some negative feedback, but many students said they understand that the tuition increases are being used to improve their education and to improve UB," Della Contrada said. "They appreciate the fact that SUNY's new tuition policy allows UB to keep tuition revenue and invest it in students' education."

Email: news@ubspectrum.com