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NYS Higher Ed Chairs say TAP must be increased in 2024

A building at the center SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry campus in Syracuse, April 27, 2022.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
The Quad at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry campus in Syracuse, April 27, 2022.

The chairs of the higher education committees in the legislature say New York state’s Tuition Assistance Program needs to be increased. They say it no longer fulfills its mission of helping lower- and middle-class students with college expenses.

Assemblymember Pat Fahy and Senator Toby Stavisky chair their chambers’ higher education committees. They say the popular TAP program, aimed at offsetting tuition costs for lower- and middle-income students, has not kept up with recent inflation.

They say other changes have also led to a decline in the value of the award. Until 2011, New York would increase the maximum TAP award to match the state’s SUNY and CUNY tuition rates. Back then, tuition at the State University of New York was just over $4,900 for in-state students, and the maximum TAP award was $5,000.

But that arrangement ended, and in the more than a dozen years since then, SUNY tuition has risen to around $7,000, while the maximum TAP award is just $5,665.

Fahy says they would also like to raise the family income threshold from $80,000 to $122,000. Fahy says the last time it was increased was 24 years ago.

“We haven't changed the income eligibility of $80,000 (in) almost a quarter-century,” Fahy said. “The $80,000 is no longer exactly middle class for many, many of our families.”

Fahy says 70% of students cite rising costs as the barrier to attending college. That, along with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action programs at higher education institutions, makes it more difficult to promote diversity on campuses, she says.

“We want our campuses to stay diverse,” said Fahy. “(That’s) another reason to help TAP.

She says increasing the TAP award could also help reverse declining student enrollment that has led to cutbacks at SUNY campuses in Potsdam and Fredonia, and the announced closure of the St. Rose campus in Fahy’s district in Albany.

Senate Higher Education Chair Toby Stavisky says she also wants to remedy what she calls New York State’s decades of financial neglect of public colleges and universities.

“The disinvestment in state support had been going on for years, “ Stavisky said. “Unfortunately, the students had to bear the cost, not the state. And the state share of operating aid in the higher education community declined.”

There are also a number of bills in the Senate and Assembly to, among other things, up the number of years someone is eligible for TAP, and to increase the minimum award to $1,000.

SUNY Chancellor John King backs the TAP increase, testifying in support of it at an Assembly hearing in November.

Senator Stavisky says she’s been talking to staff at Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, and she hopes the governor will agree to the plan in the state budget this year.

The state faces a $4.3 billion budget gap that the governor will have to close, so there will be more competition for funding programs this year.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.