Keeping the college dream affordable

There are a number of reasons why a college education is valuable. It can increase earning power, open the door to new opportunities and help establish life-long connections that will pay unlimited dividends. A college education can also be costly and involve substantial debt that could take years to repay.

The state budget, adopted earlier this year, makes major new investments in New York’s higher education system, ensuring strong support for tuition assistance programs, public and private universities, and community colleges across the state.

The budget increases base aid support for community colleges for each full-time equivalent student by a total of $15.1 million. In addition, the overall state operating support for the state’s public university systems has gone up by $148 million. The budget also helps ensure that young parents can pursue the college dream by restoring $1.2 million for child care on public campuses.

These measures help keep tuition bills in check and also aid our college campuses with technology and curriculum enhancements. By ensuring our campuses continue to offer diverse courses at top-notch facilities we will attract the best students, and be able to prepare them to compete in the ever-changing world.

Our college campuses are also economic engines for many of our communities. Assuring their continued vitality pays dividends on Main Streets today and for years to come.

Recently, the state senate passed several additional bills to preserve the lifelong benefits of a college education while limiting the financial roadblocks many students and their families face.

These bills provide opportunities to help New York students thrive by increasing awards in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to equal the cost per semester of SUNY and CUNY tuition, alleviating student loan debt, giving access to free community college to eligible students, and providing targeted work-training programs.

Senate bill 7795 builds upon the $34.2 million TAP increase included in the 2014-15 state budget. The measure increases the maximum TAP award from $5,165 to $6,470 beginning in fall 2015. In addition, the bill increases the maximum income eligibility for TAP from $80,000 to $100,000 to include more middle class families and students.

Senate bill 7791 would help students pay off large student debts. The bill would enable eligible students to convert up to $35,000 in private student loan debt into a low-interest loan to be managed by the state. Students would be able to pay off the loan based on their annual income and ability to pay. The new program, called the New York Student Affordable Refinancing for Tomorrow (New START) Program, would make it easier for students to pay off student loan debt, which has surpassed credit card debt as the number one source of debt in the nation.

Senate bill 7793 would guarantee access to a free community college education for eligible students. This bill requires the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation to reimburse students for the cost of attending a community college if they meet eligibility requirements related to academic success and financial aid eligibility.

Senate bill 7792 would create a pilot program that includes reduced-cost accelerated baccalaureate degrees at SUNY institutions. These degree programs would be completed within three years and total tuition cost is capped at $12,000 for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Senate bill 7794 would establish a grant-funded program geared at retraining and employing unemployed people. This legislation awards a $500,000 grant to community colleges to develop or improve existing workforce development programs. It would provide proper training required for job placement in businesses and industries within an eligible college’s region that is lacking the necessary workforce, is seeking employees with new skills, or where job growth is anticipated in the near future.

The new legislation will provide a strong compliment to the initiatives included in the state budget. I am hopeful the assembly will join in passing these senate bills so they can be sent to the governor for his consideration.

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© 2018 Snyder Communications/The Evening Sun
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