By GAVIN PATERNITI
Special to the OBSERVER
While death and taxes are said to be the only two certainties in life, student loans may be the best candidate for a third.
For area college students, however, there are several options as to how big those loans have to be when considering annual tuition and room-and-board costs.
One of the biggest discrepancies between tuition rates in New York is that of SUNY schools versus private schools. For comparison, the annual 2013-14 tuition rate for an undergraduate student attending SUNY Fredonia is $5,870, while the cost for the same student in the same academic year at St. Bonaventure University is $29,589.
When fees such as housing and meal plans are taken into account, the Fredonia student could expect to pay up to $18,744 and the St. Bonaventure student is estimated to pay $39,784 in direct costs. Indirect costs at St. Bonaventure, such as books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses could add an extra $2,200 on top of that.
According to Mike Barone, director of public relations at SUNY Fredonia, the considerably lower cost of attending a SUNY school is a testament to the integrity of the system.
"One thing we want to stress is that the SUNY system has historically done a very good job of keeping tuition and total costs very low; not only relative to private schools, but relative to other state systems," Barone said. "And that's happened in an environment where we've had steadily decreasing state support over the past two decades. Up until Governor (Andrew) Cuomo, we had minimal support from Albany. Now, we can actually know what our year-to-year tuition increase is - it's very small and manageable - and that helps families to plan their finances."
The same differential cost exists within the city of Jamestown when comparing SUNY Jamestown Community College and Jamestown Business College. The annual undergraduate tuition rate for the 2013-14 academic year at JCC is $4,220, while JBC's yearly rate is $10,800.
Nelson Garifi, executive director of marketing and academic initiatives at JCC, said JCC's low tuition rates are where students can benefit the most.
"JCC continues to be the best value in today's higher education marketplace," Garifi said. "We believe that value resides at the intersection of quality and affordability, and that is exactly where you'll find JCC."
Where JCC and JBC's numbers come closer, however, is when students factor in the cost of on-campus housing. The cost of a double-occupancy residence hall suite at JCC for an academic year is $6,190. A single-occupancy suite costs even more: $6,930. On the other hand, JBC does not offer on-campus housing.
Additionally, JBC's annual $10,800 cost is a fixed fee which combines all of the college's services into one simple rate for all students. According to David Conklin, JBC president, the college incorporates a minimal amount of excess fees in order to be more economical for students who are seeking financial aid.
"When you take into account financial aid, we do not have a lot of fees because the grant money is based on tuition; not fees," Conklin said.
Conklin said JBC students can also save in the long-term by having the opportunity to graduate in less than two years.
"What we do to keep the cost down for students is (allow) them to graduate on time. Both our day and evening and weekend students have an opportunity to finish in 18 months," he said.
Another thing for area students to consider is the cost of in-state versus out-of-state tuition. At SUNY Fredonia, for example, the $5,870 annual tuition rate for New York residents will increase to $15,320 for out-of-state residents, according to Barone. In the same regard, JCC's tuition cost is double for full-time non-residents, at $8,440 for the year.
"Obviously, it's a big discount if you're a (New York) resident," said Barone.
For Chautauqua County students attending Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, there is an incentive to waive out-of-state tuition costs. According to Andrea Konkol, associate director of admissions, Chautauqua County residents can attend Penn State Behrend for the in-state annual tuition cost of $13,338 through a grant. Without the incentive, students would pay the out-of-state tuition amount of $20,400.
"The grant really is a great benefit," Konkol said. "But it's only applicable if (Chautauqua County) students attend Penn State Behrend. It's not applicable for any other Penn State campuses."
Konkol said students also have the option to utilize on-campus housing or to commute. If the former is chosen, Konkol said the average cost of living for students is $9,370.
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