March 2001
View Points 2001

From the New York State Assembly Black Square Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Edward C. Sullivan, Chair, Higher Education Committee

Assembly Budget Makes a College Education Affordable for Working Families

The Assembly Majority recognizes that a quality, affordable college education is the key to building a brighter future for our children — and a skilled workforce for the new economy.

That’s why our budget increases funding $107 million over last year — a $136 million increase over the Governor’s budget. Again this year, the Assembly’s budget invests in programs that keep college affordable, increase aid to community colleges, and help SUNY and CUNY attract more full–time professors.

For several Higher Education budget items, the Assembly will create for the first time a five–year budget plan that will enable colleges and students to formulate their plans with more certainty.

Expanding TAP for all students

Many students depend on some form of financial assistance to keep a college education within reach. To help make that assistance available, the Assembly’s budget once again makes provisions to expand and improve TAP.

Our budget provides an additional $21 million above the Governor to improve the TAP program. We double Graduate TAP awards to $1100. The Assembly also proposes to eliminate the TAP "uppercut" — which decreases TAP awards to college juniors and seniors.

To provide additional assistance for families who have more than one child enrolled in college simultaneously, the Assembly proposes doubling the income deduction a family can claim for a second or third student.

For example, current law stipulates that when a family sends a second student to college, their income for the purposes of calculating TAP is reduced by $3,000, which in turn increases the amount of TAP aid for which both children are eligible. For each additional student, income is further reduced by $2,000. The Assembly proposes to double those amounts — to $6,000 for a second student and $4,000 for each additional student. For a family with an income of $35,000 and two children attending SUNY, that means additional TAP benefits of $1,440 per year.

Our plan will also provide $4 million for the creation of a Supplemental TAP program to extend TAP eligibility on a pro–rated basis for students who need an extra semester to graduate.

Finally, to help keep our kids safe once they reach college, the Assembly proposal will require the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control to make annual fire safety inspections of colleges and universities, and impose new fines for violations that remain uncorrected after 30 days.

Improving access to higher education

To ensure that every New Yorker who wants a college education has access to one, the Assembly will also increase funding to higher education opportunity programs — like HEOP, EOP, SEEK, STEP and CSTEP — which encourage economically and academically disadvantaged students to earn a degree by providing academic support and financial assistance. These programs help students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college, and create more diversity by drawing from populations that are traditionally under–represented in higher education.

The Assembly provides an additional $23 million above the Governor for HEOP, EOP and SEEK — an increase of $12.27 million more than last year. These funds will be part of the five–year budget, and will include increases over a five–year period.

We are also working to add over $4 million to the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), which provide funding and services for these students to pursue scientific, technical or health–related fields. Like HEOP and EOP, these programs provide vital services which help students to succeed in college and beyond.

We need to make sure that no funds are taken from these programs to ensure a better future for these New Yorkers and give disadvantaged students a chance to achieve.

Making it easier for parents to attend college

As the demand for highly–skilled workers grows, so does the need for affordable child care for parents who attend college to learn new skills. In response to this need, the Assembly’s budget restores the Governor’s $3 million cut for Child Care Services and increases funding by $2 million over last year.

This funding will help expand and improve the services these facilities offer to students with young children — building on an increase of over $3 million for SUNY, CUNY and community college campus–based child care centers that the Assembly Majority secured in last year’s budget agreement.

Increasing aid to community colleges

The Assembly’s plan increases base aid to community colleges by $34.3 million — or $175 per student — helping these schools keep tuition costs down, maintain educational excellence, and reduce their dependence on local property taxpayers. The increase stands in stark contrast to the Governor’s proposal, which has frozen funding at last year’s levels — failing to consider growing costs and enrollment.

The Assembly is also helping community colleges plan for the future by initiating a five–year budget plan which will gradually increase state funding to 40% of operating costs — reducing the share of costs to be shouldered by students and local governments.

Community colleges offer a quality education for students who wish to meet career goals or get a head start on a four–year degree — and help give workers the updated skills they’ll need to compete in the ever–changing workplace.

Adding full–time faculty positions to ensure quality in our classrooms

SUNY and CUNY have helped thousands of New Yorkers build successful careers. Our state’s economic future depends upon how well we train and educate our work force — and that takes quality instructors.

Currently, only 65% of SUNY’s professors occupy full-time positions. The numbers for the CUNY system are even more startling — 51% in its senior colleges and less than 60% in its community colleges. The Governor’s budget would cut funding for SUNY and CUNY faculty lines, but the Assembly’s proposal increases this funding by over $22 million over last year.

The full-time faculty initiative will have a five-year budget component

Increasing the number of full–time faculty at our public colleges and universities will reduce the chance that students are cut out of critical classes because of a lack of qualified instructors — and ensure that they receive the best education possible.

Continuing the effort to keep college affordable

The Assembly Majority knows tomorrow’s leaders are in today’s classrooms. We cannot talk about improving our state’s economic future without providing a quality affordable college education for all New Yorkers. That’s why we have consistently fought to preserve and improve the quality and affordability of a college education for all New Yorkers. Last year alone, we made 30,000 more New Yorkers eligible for TAP, created the College Tuition Tax Plan to provide an itemized tax deduction of up to $10,000 for college costs, and funded the creation of over 200 new full–time faculty lines for SUNY and CUNY colleges, universities and community colleges.

An investment in higher education is an investment in New York’s future. The Assembly Majority knows that. If enacted as part of the final state budget, our plan will pay dividends well into the future as our families seek a better tomorrow for their children through a quality, affordable college education.

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