April 2003
Focus on Higher Education

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Ron Canestrari, Chair, Higher Education Committee

Experts say...

"This is a frightening trend. And no matter how you look at it, these phenomenal increases are hindering access to higher education."

- Rep. Howard P. McKeon (R-CA)

"The students understand that they need to support their state university. What they don’t accept is that they’re supporting more and more and the state’s withdrawing more and more."

- George Pape, Student Representative to the SUNY Board

"Offering the promise of higher education to motivated, talented students and then taking a third of it away with the other hand is just not smart public policy. We all have heard the phrase ‘a dream deferred may be a dream denied,’ and I’m afraid that this moves us in that direction."

- Jamienne Studley, President of Skidmore College

"Slashing education aid, gutting TAP, hacking higher education funding – all of this leads us nowhere. New York is breaking its promise. …This budget sells the promise of tomorrow for a quick fix today. New York cannot accept this kind of shortsighted budgeting."

- Alan B. Lubin, Executive Vice President of New York State United Teachers

"As the state actively pursues a knowledge-based, high technology future, policymakers must remember that advanced research builds on the fundamentals gained through undergraduate education. Access to college – particularly for the 40 percent of New York filers earning less than $20,000 annually – must be protected."

- Abraham M. Lackman, President of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities

"Cutting TAP is just a way for the governor to defer payments. It’s simply a fiscal gimmick."

- Miriam Kramer, Higher Education Coordinator for the New York State Public Interest Research Group

Governor Pataki’s Tuition and Fee Hikes Hurt Students and Stifle Competitiveness

For many people, higher education is the gateway to a better life. With better education comes better jobs, better wages and better opportunities. In fact, in an increasingly high-tech economy, a college education is often a prerequisite just to get in the door. That’s what makes the governor’s opposition to an affordable higher education so much harder to understand.

Pushing the college dream further out of reach

In his budget, the governor proposes cutting aid to our state university system by $703 million, while raising tuition $1,200 and cutting the Tuition Assistance Program by a third. He also wants to slash by 50 percent the Educational Opportunity Programs whose direct aid awards play a crucial role in aiding disadvantaged students, and reduce base aid to community colleges by 15 percent, or $345 per student. Even private colleges and universities would feel the pinch, taking a 42 percent cut in state support.

The governor’s fiscal antagonism to higher education is nothing new. Over the past nine years, he’s proposed $2.4 billion in cuts to colleges and universities. According to a study by Illinois State University’s Grapevine Institute, our state now ranks 47th out of 50 in terms of public funding of higher education. On the governor’s watch, New York’s public colleges have become the 14th most expensive in the country – $556 higher than the nationwide average – and his tuition hike would put the system in the top five most costly in the nation. The state’s community colleges have become the fifth-most expensive, with tuitions almost $1,200 above average.

And if the governor and his appointees have their way, students can expect costs to go up even more – every year.

Forcing students to pay more every year

SUNY Chancellor – and Pataki appointee – Robert King wants to index tuition to the inflation rate, so that, as he explains, students don’t have to face huge tuition increases all at once.

King tries to make it sound as though tuition bills only go up when they’re voted up. But as any college student in New York can attest, that isn’t the case. The truth is that since 1995 – the year students last faced a tuition hike and the year Pataki took office – fees at SUNY schools increased an unbelievable 128 percent, a rate of increase many times higher than inflation.

Higher cost equals fewer students

No matter how costs go up – all at once, or in dribs and drabs – the end result is the same: Fewer and fewer students can afford the college education they need. The numbers bear this out, too. Following the governor’s $750 tuition hike in the 1995-96 school year, enrollment in the state’s public university systems dropped by nearly 30,000, the largest such drop since 1975-76.

And that tuition increase was only $750. How many students will be forced to put off – or abandon altogether – their dreams of higher education with a tuition hike that’s 60 percent bigger?

Pulling away the ladder to a better life

College students and their families aren’t the only losers when it comes to tuition increases – we all are. If we want to attract new business and new investment to our state, we need a strong and capable workforce – the kind of workforce we can’t possibly create if the cost of college is pushed as high as the governor proposes.

The Assembly is fighting for our future

The Assembly has fought to make college as affordable and accessible as possible. We’ve successfully fought the governor’s previous attempts to cut higher education and ensured that adequate resources were provided by:

  • Creating the College Tuition Tax Credit to allow families to deduct college expenses;
  • Increasing aid to SUNY and CUNY community colleges by $175 per full-time student since 2000 to offset higher education costs;
  • Raising the income ceiling for TAP – from $50,500 to $80,000 – to make more students eligible; and
  • Increasing the maximum TAP award to $5,000.

Higher education is too important to shortchange, and the Assembly will fight to see it isn’t. Only when the governor sees the light, though, will students finally be able to feel secure.

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