UB is potentially undercharging over half of its graduate students by mistakenly giving out-of-state students in-state tuition, according to the Office of New York State Comptroller’s (OSC) May 2022 audit.
Between June 2015 and September 2019, OSC audited seven SUNY schools to ensure out-of-state graduate students were being charged the correct corresponding tuition amount.
Although out-of-state students are supposed to pay approximately $17,000 more a year than in-state-students, the audit revealed that an estimated 52% of UB graduate student residencies are not being checked.
This potentially allows applicants to receive in-state tuition, regardless of an out-of-state residency.
The audit sampled 1,207 graduate students from different SUNYs and revealed that about 35% of them didn’t provide proof of residency.
UB was reported as the SUNY that undercharged the highest rate of graduate students, “with Buffalo having little or no documented support for graduate students’ residency in more than half the applications sampled.”
The audit showed that in a sample size of 277 students, there were 143 cases of a potential tuition undercharge. If this sample is accurate to the whole, UB would be losing about $552,242.
Students must have lived in New York State for the last 12 months before qualifying for in-state tuition. Typically, half of undergraduate students’ residencies are confirmed by the SUNY Central Office, but the other half is supposed to be confirmed by the specific SUNY that the individual is applying to.
OSC reviewed undergraduate residency assessments and concluded that those assessments were being performed thoroughly, according to Robert Megna, a SUNY Interim Financial Officer.
UB is “aware” of the findings from this audit and is working on improving their process, according to John DellaContrada, a university spokesperson.
“SUNY and UB acknowledge there are opportunities to enhance the maintenance of the documentation used to make determinations of residency at the graduate level and are making the appropriate changes to our NYS residency verification process to strengthen record collection and retention policies related to these decisions,” DellaContrada said.
UB also stated that since OSC did not identify any specific instances of graduate students purposely filling out the wrong residency for tuition charges, UB is not looking to punish any students.
“OSC auditors did not identify any specific instance of graduate students purposefully subverting residency requirements to receive a lower in-state tuition rate, but rather the findings represented ‘potential’ incorrect charges due to incomplete record maintenance related to residency determinations,” DellaContrada said. “We will implement a new NYS residency process for students entering Fall 2023.”
DellaContrada did not specify what that new process would entail.
Regardless, SUNY officials believe something must be done.
“SUNY is enabling graduate students from out-of-state to take advantage of a tuition benefit that is supposed to be reserved for New Yorkers,” Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a press statement. “SUNY’s medical schools and other graduate programs are highly competitive and represent an excellent value, regardless of residency status. SUNY administrators and staff need to ensure that tuition is charged correctly for both in-state and out-of-state students.”
Kayla Estrada is an senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayla Estrada is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is an English major who enjoys rainy weather, “Bob’s Burgers” and asking people who they voted for. When she’s not writing, she can be found hunting for odd-looking knick-knacks at the nearest thrift store.