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Assemblyman
Brian M. Kolb
Assembly District 131
 
Let’s Make A College Education More Affordable And Create More Good-Paying Jobs For College Graduates
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
June 15, 2012

The goal of earning a college degree – and applying that education toward building a successful career – is shared by millions of students and has become an accepted part of the “American Dream.” As a proud college graduate who went on to earn his master’s degree and work as an adjunct professor – and recently be named a “Distinguished Alumni” by FLCC – I believe that a world-class college education should be affordable and within reach for everyone who is willing to work hard, sacrifice, study and save.

COLLEGE EDUCATION COSTS CONTINUE RISING, TOO MUCH DEBT AND NOT ENOUGH JOBS FOR GRADUATES

However, the continued rising costs of a college education, coupled with an underperforming economy and lack of good-paying jobs for graduates, threaten to put the goal of a college degree out of reach for countless New Yorkers. Here are some facts regarding the rising costs of a college degree, the crushing debt burden too many students carry post-graduation and the unemployment rates of recent graduates:

  • Since 1981, the list price level of tuition and fees has risen six-fold, while the consumer price index has only increased two-and-a-half times (Source: “Why Does College Cost So Much?” by Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman for Forbes.com);
  • For the 2009-10 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room and board were estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions. Between 1999-2000 and 2009-10, prices for undergraduate tuition, room and board at public institutions rose 37 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 25 percent, after adjusting for inflation (Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2011);
  • It is estimated that there are more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in America and roughly two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow money to attend college either from the government or private lenders (Source: “Degrees of Debt,” by Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehren for the New York Times, May 12, 2012); and
  • For all borrowers, the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000, while the recession has left nearly half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t make full use of their skills. (Sources: “Degrees of Debt,” by Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehren for the New York Times, May 12, 2012; and “College Grads Find Uneven Prospects,” by Hope Yen, for the Associated Press, April 23, 2012).

While these figures illustrate the very real – and very high – price tag attached to a higher education, the reality is that for many careers a college degree is actually the bare minimum of educational attainment required. Teachers, attorneys, doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants and countless other professions require years of additional schooling and continuing education. This is why helping families afford the rising costs of a college degree is so important.

SMART SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE COLLEGE COSTS AND CREATE MORE JOBS

In order to reduce college costs, and ensure there are more good-paying jobs for New York’s college graduates, I have introduced a series of proposals as part of my “GrowNY” plan to create more jobs and build a more affordable New York. Some of my proposals include:

  • Retain-NY: Provide a Personal Income Tax deduction for all interest paid on student loans for taxpayers and increase the current college tuition tax-credit deduction from $10,000 to $13,820 and the maximum tax credit from $400 to $553. Retain-NY will help families save on the cost of a higher education because every little bit helps;
  • High-Tech Worker-NY: Provide a Personal Income Tax exemption of up to $50,000 per year for the first five years for new high-tech employees who completed a high-tech training program within the past 12 months (any college, vocational or certification program). High-Tech Worker-NY will help grow New York’s innovation economy and ensure we can fill the jobs of tomorrow; and
  • BizBoom: Establish the “BizBoom” business startup program to cut all application fees for new businesses by 50% for the first year, eliminate Business Income Taxes for the first year and reduce income tax rates for the second and third years. BizBoom will help ensure there are more jobs for New York’s college graduates.

MORE THAN ONE PATH TO PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS

Here in New York, we truly are blessed to have such an abundance of quality opportunities for higher learning: our SUNY and CUNY systems, along with our private and community colleges, are respected institutions of higher learning that provide an excellent education.

As important as college is, some individuals may not seek a traditional four-year college degree and opt instead for a two-year degree track, or focus on vocational (career skills) training. This approach is equally worthy and, in my opinion, has been de-emphasized to our economy’s detriment. Many highly skilled mechanics, electricians, plumbers, welders, masons, carpenters and computer technicians make just as much, if not more, than some lawyers do.

Attending college, learning a trade and perfecting a skill are all worthwhile pursuits. What matters most is finding a path that works best for you, developing a plan and accomplishing your goal. Making college more affordable and ensuring there are more jobs and less debt for college graduates are critically important parts of this effort. Markets go up and markets go down, but education is always a good investment.

NEXT WEEK: My post-Session wrap-up and a look back at the past two years of successes!

As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.

 
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