Contact: Mike Fraser, (518) 455-3751
Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I,Ref-Canandaigua) and his colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference today unveiled the Affordable College For All Initiative - a comprehensive bill package that will provide broad-based relief for the cost of college tuition. The proposal modernizes the state's existing TAP program, expands the number of eligible students, increases the amount of funding available and assists recent graduates currently paying student loans.
"The rising cost of college affects nearly every student and recent graduate in New York. We need a comprehensive approach to properly address it," Leader Kolb said. "This is not the time to consider segmented solutions that focus on only a fraction of the problem. We need to overhaul the state's outdated TAP program and make aid available to young people struggling under crushing student loans. The Affordable College For All Initiative provides real help to literally hundreds of thousands of students and graduates."
Components of the college affordability proposal would:
Increase the Household Income Cap Threshold: This proposal would raise the threshold for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) eligibility from $80,000 to $125,000 (phased in over three years). This would assist college students who attend both public and private schools, and help families with children attending any college in the state - not just a select few.
Provide an Additional $500 to Every TAP Recipient & Increase the Maximum TAP Award to $6,470: This would benefit low-income and middle-income students, as well as higher education institutions. When the state passed rational tuition in 2011, part of the agreement required institutions to cover the "TAP Gap," which is the difference between the maximum TAP award and the full tuition rate. Increasing the maximum TAP award would take this burden off of institutions and continue to alleviate the cost of tuition for students.
Make Graduate Programs Eligible for TAP: According to a 2014 report in US News & World Report, the average graduate school student from the class of 2012 took on $57,600 in combined graduate and undergraduate debt. This fiscal pressure serves as a disincentive to attend graduate school.
Reduced Taxable Income for Student Loans: This would provide a reduction in the taxable income for both interest and principal of student loan payments. Single filers can receive up to $4,000, head of household filers can receive up to $6,000 and married filers can receive up to $8,000. Income eligibility thresholds for the tax break would be $80,000 for single filers, $120,000 for head of household and $160,000 for married couples.
"As a college professor, I know first hand the financial challenges that face students pursuing a higher education-degree," said Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R,C,I-South Huntington), Ranking Minority Member of the Higher Education Committee. "A student attending a four-year institution in New York averages $32,200 in debt as soon as they graduate. For too long, the Legislature has failed to address these rising costs or offer meaningful assistance to so many students in need. Our plan addresses the financial needs of students across the board, and leaves the power of college choice in their hands. The Assembly Minority's proposal is common-sense reform that will expand higher education opportunities to all."
Assembly Minority Conference proposals would reduce the cost of tuition for the nearly 300,000 students who currently receive TAP; will add approximately 36,000 students who receive tuition assistance as a result of increasing the income threshold and provide more than 7,000 graduate students with TAP benefits; would help students attending private institutions; and offer a broad tax deduction to New Yorkers paying student loans.
"Increasing tuition assistance and expanding current programs to benefit more of our middle class citizens has been a priority of mine for years, which is why I've introduced legislation to accomplish those goals during the past few sessions. While I was pleased to learn that the governor now shares my intent, his plan simply misses the mark," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C,I-Brooklyn, Staten Island) "Our Conference's proposals offer much more equitable and effective means to finally bring tuition relief to higher education students. By expanding the income eligibility threshold, which hasn't increased since 2000, and restoring tuition assistance for graduate students, we can help alleviate student debt for all New Yorkers."
A proposal from the executive aimed at college cost relief falls short in scope. The "free" tuition program offered by the governor:
- Does not help those already attending private colleges and universities;
- Does not help those currently struggling to pay back student loans;
- Prioritizes illegal immigrants over graduate students; and
- The Governor's Excelsior Scholarship requires students to take 15 credits per semester and permanently disqualifies students who fall below that threshold. The TAP program requires more reasonable 12-credits per semester for eligibility.