BUFFALO - Compared to the rest of Western New York, the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State College are quite the bargain.
Instead of attending, say, Canisius -- which charges close to $32,000 in tuition -- you can attend either of those two schools for fewer than $6,000 a year. Over the past decade, tuition rates at UB and Buffalo State have increased, but not nearly at the same alarming rate as other public universities and most private universities.
And yet if you wander the Buffalo State campus and chat up freshmen, who underwent orientation on Tuesday, you'll still find students struggling to pay for college. Bill Lopez, a native of the Bronx, moved into his dorm in July. He said he'll probably have $28,000 in loans by the time he graduates in four years. He's not alone, even at a school with cheap tuition in comparison to the rest of the state.
Perhaps that's because although Lopez isn't paying significantly more in tuition than preceding students, he is in fact paying a boatload more in Room and Board than previous graduating classes. According to data from the U.S News and World Report, Buffalo State students paid $7,500 in Room and Board in 2005-06. Currently, that number has jumped to more than $11,000 representing a 49.2 percent increase.
At UB, students paid $7,526 in Room and Board in 2005-06. Now, they're paying close to $12,000. That's a 57.6 percent jump.
Mark Petrie, the Associated Vice President for Enrollment Management, has an answer for that.
"The spike you may have seen in your data," Petrie said, "is probably the new residency facilities over the old."
Petrie doesn't oversee that department, but he said the new construction of buildings, maintenance and other costs have contributed to higher Room and Board charges for students at Buffalo State.
No matter where the costs are coming from, though, it's no secret that college students pay exponentially more now than they did decades ago. Debbie Slater knows that better than anyone, considering she's pursuing another degree at Buffalo State after starting college 23 years ago.
She can't remember the exact tuition she used to pay, but it's obviously not what she's paying now.
"A lot less [back then]," she said, with a laugh. "Probably about a third of what I pay now."
Slater already had to pay for two grown children to attend college, and she said all of her friends with children were saddled with thousands of dollars in debt.
Petrie, whose own son starts at Buffalo State as a freshman this year, said it's worth the payoff.
"This is an investment," Petrie said. "It's for a good cause."