Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah J. Glick today announced the final 2014-15 state budget takes significant strides in making college more affordable by increasing support for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards and establishes a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) scholarship program. The final state spending plan also provides funding to enhance community college base aid, preserve SUNY health science centers and boost opportunity programs.
"Preparing students to be successful, competitive players in an already highly-skilled workforce means making crucial investments in higher education, which is what we sought to achieve in this year's overall state budget," Speaker Silver said. "This year, the Assembly was able to secure the first increase in TAP awards in 14 years and establish a brand new STEM scholarship program. These significant achievements, combined with other levels of funding and support for higher education in the final budget, will truly help make obtaining a college degree more affordable. And by making a quality higher education more accessible, we are investing in a bright future for our students and a bright future for the state of New York."
"For students who struggle to afford the ever-increasing costs of higher education, this year's overall budget will bring some welcome relief in the form of increased TAP awards, scholarships and boosted opportunity programs," Glick said. "The Assembly Majority has always maintained a steadfast commitment to ensuring that every student who wants to can go to college and afford their degree. Our work is far from finished, but the final state budget takes steps toward making an affordable higher education a reality, rather than some far-off goal."
The Assembly was able to secure $25.7 million for the 2014-15 academic year. This marks the first increase to the TAP program in 14 years. The budget increases the maximum TAP award by $165 from $5,000 to $5,165 per full-time student (FTE). The budget will also increase awards for students that are either wards of the state or in the care of foster parents.
The budget also includes $8 million in funding for a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) scholarship program. Full tuition scholarships to any SUNY or CUNY institutions will be offered to the top 10 percent of high school graduates if they pursue a STEM career and work in New York for five years.
By raising community college base aid, the state reduces a financial burden for both students and municipalities. Recognizing this, the 2014-15 budget provides $20.2 million in increased support for community colleges, a funding increase that translates into a $75/FTE increase in state support.
The importance of SUNY health science centers - such as Downstate Health Science Center, Upstate Medical University and Stony Brook Health Science Center - in providing quality care and teaching opportunities cannot be underestimated. In the final 2014-15 state budget, the Assembly fought to secure an additional $18.5 million above the Governor's original proposed budget.
Opportunity programs are vital to providing academic and supportive services to economically and educationally disadvantaged students. The budget provides $102 million in funding for higher education opportunity programs - such as the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) - at SUNY, CUNY, private and independent colleges. This increase of $4.2 million from the Executive proposal restores and provides for a three percent increase for all opportunity programs.
The final 2014-15 budget also restores $653,000 to SUNY Child Care Centers and $544,000 to CUNY Child Care Centers, to provide overall funding of $1.7 million at SUNY and $1.4 million at CUNY.
Additional support in the 2014-15 budget for higher education includes: