Following a call to action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the SUNY Board of Trustees voted on Friday to extend in-state tuition to students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for the 2017-18 academic year.
In a press statement released Wednesday, Cuomo called on SUNY and CUNY to temporarily amend the guidelines governing public universities and colleges in New York because of the aftermath of hurricanes Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“The Puerto Rican community is one of the most vibrant communities in New York, with over 1.1 million Puerto Ricans calling the Empire State home,” Cuomo said in the statement. “At the same time, more U.S. Virgin Islanders list their place of birth as New York than any other state in the nation.”
According to Arthur Ramsay, senior director of SUNY Student Assembly’s Office of Communications, the Board of Trustees was originally scheduled to meet in November, but called an emergency meeting to vote on the extension in light of the devastation in the Caribbean.
Ramsay said SUNY had identified 214 current students who would benefit from the revisions as of Friday afternoon. The in-state tuition at a SUNY institution is roughly $10,000 less than the nonresident fee, and by enacting the extension, SUNY will lose at least $200,000. Despite the loss, Ramsay said the measure will have little impact on the SUNY budget, as the decrease in money will be spread across the entire SUNY system of campuses.
The Board of Trustees has also called upon CUNY and SUNY statutory schools to take similar actions and extend in-state tuition to those impacted by the hurricanes. Tuition at SUNY statutory schools is determined by separate boards. In a press statement, H. Carl McCall, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said he felt it was SUNY’s responsibility to help students and their families.
“SUNY has a responsibility, as a public institution, to step in and help students when circumstances beyond their control may affect their ability to attend, pay for, and succeed in college,” McCall said. “The SUNY Board of Trustees is proud to do what it can for these displaced students.”
Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said he felt the extension was necessary while the Caribbean copes with the aftermath of the hurricanes, and said the guideline changes would not affect enrollment targets.
“I believe it is a great idea that I fully support while Puerto Rico is in recovery,” Stenger said. “Of course, students who transfer here from Puerto Rico will have to apply and be admitted as other transfer students do. This will allow us to adjust our transfer admission rate so as to not change our enrollment targets.”
Other university presidents also expressed their support for the decision. On Twitter, Havidán Rodríguez, president of the University at Albany, praised Cuomo, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and the entire SUNY system for assisting students impacted by the hurricanes. Rodríguez was born in Puerto Rico and said the University at Albany was proud to be partnered with SUNY.
Currently, Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders will only receive in-state tuition credit for the 2017-18 academic year, but if the Board of Trustees deems it necessary to extend the guideline revision, it may hold another vote at a later date to determine if the measure should be applied to the 2018-19 academic year.
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