Tuition to the state's public colleges next year could increase once again next, driving up the cost of a four-year public college education in New York.
"It's going to be a tight fiscal year. The state is looking at a deficit. Will the state increase financial aid? It's going to be a big issue," said Blair Horner, NYPIRG legislative director.
The average New York resident can spend up to $21,000 a year on tuition costs and fees while attending a public college, and that could increase by as much as $200. SUNY officials insist students are getting a good bang for their buck.
"By any definition of public university tuition, including fees, SUNY remains a very affordable option," said Bob Megna, SUNY vice chancellor.
But at an Assembly hearing on Wednesday there were concerns that SUNY tuition is becoming increasingly difficult to afford. Lawmakers want Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation providing state funding for non-classroom expenses so students won't be left with the bill. It's a measure he's vetoed in the past.
"We need to keep up with the costs, the mandatory costs, that come to the campuses. They shouldn't have to try to patch them over or add tremendous burden to students," said Deborah Glick, (D) assemblywoman.
The concern for public college advocates is the increasing costs could drive students who have difficulty obtaining financial aid out of the SUNY system.
"Once we have every year significant increases in tuition, we lose students who are on the margins," Glick said.
Now one thing designed to make it easier for students to afford tuition is the Excelsior Scholarship program, which provides free tuition as long as a student has exhausted all other forms of student aid. Lawmakers say the program is working well, but they would like to expand it.