Stirpe: College financial aid applications are due soon

Al Stirpe

There’s an old saying that the future belongs to those who prepare for it. One key to building a brighter future for New York State is ensuring everyone has the opportunity to earn a college degree. For far too long the high cost of college has created an unfair disadvantage for hardworking families and students, forcing them to take on enormous amounts of debt or abandon their dream of going to college altogether.

In 2016, America’s high school graduation rate reached a high of 83.2 percent. What’s more, according to the New York State Department of Education, Central New York’s overall high school graduation rate of 89 percent beat the statewide average of 79.4 percent. Nearly every school district across Onondaga County has seen progress in graduation rates.

I’m working to eliminate barriers to higher education and support students throughout every stage of learning so that everyone who dreams of getting a degree can make it their reality. Currently, there are a variety of programs that can help New Yorkers afford college, including scholarships and state and federal aid programs.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid – or FAFSA – is a critical step in applying for financial aid scholarships, grants and low-interest loans, and is the first step to applying for the state Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The deadline to apply is two short weeks away, on June 30, for both FAFSA and TAP.

New York has taken strides to bridge the gap of college affordability with the groundbreaking Excelsior Scholarship. This scholarship, in combination with other financial aid sources, allows qualified students to attend public college tuition-free. The deadline to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship is July 21.

Additionally, the NYS Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program is now also accepting applications and provides eligible recent NYS college graduates up to 24 months of federal student loan debt relief.

Higher education should not be a privilege for the few, but must be accessible to anyone who strives for it. If you’ve earned the grades, you deserve to pursue the dream you worked so hard for. Remember, these deadlines are fast approaching. To apply to FAFSA, visit www.fafsa.ed.gov before the June 30 deadline; to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship visithttps://www.hesc.ny.gov/excelsior/ before the July 21 deadline, and visit www.hesc.ny.gov to learn more about financial aid options.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please feel free to reach out to me by calling 315-452-1115 or via email at StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

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