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Federal Research Funding Battle Leads to UAlbany Tuition and Fee Increase

(Photo Credit: UAlbany)

By Danielle Modica | October 25, 2021

University at Albany undergraduate students will notice a change to their tuition statements this fall. Effective August 2021, an annual fee cost of $275 as well as an out-of-state tuition increase of $250 will be added to student bills in hopes to help UAlbany compete for federal research funding.

The Times Union reported a potential rise in four-year SUNY tuition rates and fees late last month. The article mentioned stark increases to a “variety of vaguely defined fees,” including the “Innovation Fee,” for SUNY’s four Research University Centers, UAlbany, Binghamton University, University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University.

This mysterious Innovation Fee is an alternative name for the notorious annual University Fee. The fee is mandatory for all students to “provide supplemental support for the academic mission of the University,” according to the UAlbany fee description webpage.

In this case, the fee income generated will be used to benefit UAlbany’s ability to provide “high quality research and educational opportunities” in hopes to stand out amongst other colleges competing for “once-in-a-generation” federal research dollars.

The increase, a total of $275 per academic year, is split to a $137.50 semesterly fee cost. This is a $75 jump from the previous $62.50 University Fee, but is the only current fee change occurring at UAlbany.

According to UAlbany Budget Director Nicole Angelozzi, the $275 fee increase is not in response to the loss of revenue or funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fee budgets are dedicated to providing specific services to students,” Angelozzi said. “Any fee increases are based on increases in the cost of services or the addition of new services to the fee program.”

According to the Positioning SUNY For Success in the New Innovation Economy Resolution passed in June 2021, the federal funding will come particularly through the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, authorizing up to $250 billion for basic and advanced technology research over a five year period.

The Innovation Fee is eligible for coverage through New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or SUNY Tuition Credit.

The $250 out-of-state tuition increase comes along with the fee to protect in-state students from experiencing larger impacts to TAP coverage, however the decision was not made by UAlbany administration.

“Tuition is set by the SUNY Board of Trustees collectively for all SUNY campuses,” UAlbany Vice President of Finance and Administration Todd Foreman said. “UAlbany has no campus level authority with regard to tuition rates.”

Even with this change, the cost of attendance at UAlbany will remain below that of peer research institutions like the University of California-Berkeley, Rutgers, and Ohio State University; all institutions that SUNY will be competing against to receive the federal research dollars.

“Any cost increases are weighed carefully to balance affordability with continuity of services,” Foreman said. “UAlbany administration aims to minimize increases to cost of attendance, while still providing the curriculum and services students need.”

Whether or not UAlbany wins the federal funding, the increased student revenue will be put to use in improving student access to research tools in various departments, from artificial intelligence to lithium batteries.


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