Stirpe: Assembly budget proposal expands access to higher education in CNY

Al Stirpe

The Assembly proposal includes smart investments in critical programs that help make college affordable for many more New Yorkers. We’re surrounded by future surgeons, engineers and farmers who’ll keep us healthy, safe and fed. However, in order for students to earn a higher education they might be trading the ability to buy a home or start a family due to the crippling debt they’ll be in. Central New York is full of great public schools that all New Yorkers should be able to afford, and it’s time to make that happen.

The Assembly’s state budget proposal takes significant steps toward expanding access to higher education and investing in our schools. One approach the Assembly plan is making is increasing funding for the Tuition Assistance Program to a maximum award of $5,500 a year, an increase of $335, and will further increase to $6,500 over four years. And, to help students with a family and other obligations, the proposal allocates $40 million for Part-time TAP at community colleges.

In addition, the Assembly also improves the executive’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship program which would provide free SUNY tuition to middle-class families. The Assembly would reduce the number of credits students would be required to take every semester, making the program more accessible to students who must also work or care for their family.

The Assembly proposal would also reset the tuition that Excelsior pays every four years to keep up with rising tuition costs and raise the maximum income level to qualify to $150,000 in the fourth year of the program so more students can take advantage of it.

Further, SUNY would receive $12.9 million for community base aid, bringing the rate up to $2,797 per full-time equivalent student. It would also increase funding for opportunity programs by $23.8 million to help students. As the father of a college graduate, I know it’s not just tuition that’s a concern. That’s why the Assembly is encouraging SUNY schools to take advantage of low- or no-cost electronic resources, which could save students thousands of dollars on textbooks and other materials.

As we continue to expand the accessibility of higher education to our residents, we must also address the operational needs of colleges and higher educational institutions in order to better train and serve our future leaders. The Assembly proposal provides $87.9 million for SUNY Health Science Centers, including SUNY Upstate Medical University, which provide localized care for our community.

The proposal also provides $6.5 million for Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking labs, one of which is located in Syracuse. Lastly, the proposal provides SUNY with $150 million in capital funding to help pay for new projects and $1.1 million to SUNY for Child Care Centers for students balancing school and a family.

These are important issues, and I’ll work diligently to ensure the final budget significantly invests in our children, their education and their future. If you have any questions or concerns, about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 315-452-1115 or StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

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