SUNY Buffalo State may be among the cheapest colleges in New York, but for students dealing with those costs, it's not much consolation.
"I had to take out a loan, a federal direct loan that my parents had to figure out how to pay for, and we're still struggling to figure out how to pay for that," SUNY Buffalo State freshman Colmari Garcia-Rodriguez said.
Garcia-Rodriguez went to the state Senate Higher Education Hearing in Buffalo to let lawmakers know she doesn't believe she's getting good return on her dollars.
"They barely have any counselors to talk to when it comes to financial aid questions or just someone to talk to if you have problems or like registration questions," she said. "They also barely have tutoring available for like your STEM majors, like the Science, the Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and it’s hard to get help."
Committee Chair Toby Ann Stavisky, D-Queens, said she's heard similar concerns from students across the state.
"Even though tuition is relatively low, if you don't have the money it's impossible and yet I admire these young people," she said. "I respect them and I think that perhaps we've got to do something to help."
Stavisky and her colleagues will help craft the state budget in January. She said there have been common requests at the hearings. Advocates said the state should freeze tuition for SUNY schools.
"What we're hoping today is to give them a clear message that students have been paying more than their fair share, billions of dollars in additional tuition costs and yet not getting the sort of services they deserve, primarily because the state is not forking over enough money," NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner said.
They're also calling on the state to make sure it enhances programs and pick up what's called the TAP gap, the difference between the maximum amount through the tuition assistance program and the actual cost of tuition. Colleges have been covering the gap but as it increases, they've had to cut elsewhere.
"You have buildings where maintenance is deferred," Stavisky said. "You have programs that are being cut."
Committee members said it's difficult to make funding promises during a tight budget year but say they're committed to the SUNY system.
"We have to ensure that the finances are coming out of Albany to grow the university into the world class educational institution that already is," state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said.