February 14, 2015

Speaker Heastie Announces
Higher Education Road to Success Initiative

Calling for bold steps to increase access to higher education for low and middle income New Yorkers, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today outlined a multi-faceted Higher Education Road to Success initiative at the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislator's 44th annual conference. The program, which will be included in the Assembly's budget proposal, will fund innovative new and existing programs and help pave the way for citizens to climb the ladder of economic opportunity.

"In communities across the state, there are young men and women who live each day with the knowledge that the education they need to make their dreams a reality is beyond their reach. It is unfortunate that in one of the most progressive states in the nation, an individualís path to success is still decided by how much education they can afford, if any at all," said Heastie.

It is widely recognized that students from low income communities face greater hurdles to successfully completing their K-12 education, with the high school years often proving to be the most challenging. Data shows that high school graduation rates for black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind the national average at just 63%. Minority students are disproportionately affected by higher suspension and disciplinary records, overrepresentation in special education settings and other systemic challenges that further stunts the number of college-ready high school seniors in our communities. This is why dedicated investment in opportunity expansion programs that build bridges from secondary to higher education are so critical to increasing success among our youth.

According to the results of a recent Pew Research Center poll, 75 percent of adults think higher education has become unaffordable and many question whether it is even worth pursuing. This sentiment is disproportionately higher in lower income communities and communities of color.

"We cannot afford for our young people, our leaders of tomorrow, to lose faith in the value of education. This is our charge and we must see it fulfilled. That is why today, I am pleased to announce the Higher Education Road to Success initiative to take the next steps in securing the future of our state," said Heastie.

The task of improving access to education requires a comprehensive approach that will:

Speaker Heastieís initiative will implement a multi-year funding and policy strategy to establish and enhance the following:

In the state of the union address, President Obama boldly recognized the looming burden of the education debt facing our students and unveiled a number of proposals and investments that would bring higher education within reach of more low and middle income families.

Here in New York, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the CUNY and SUNY systems have helped countless students achieve an affordable college education that is among the most respected in the nation. The Assembly Majority is also committed to seeing the DREAM Act passed and funded so that immigration status will no longer stand in the way of state-provided tuition assistance, scholarships and opportunity programs for our students. Under the plan, an infusion of funding is proposed to support these and other related programs to give students the support they need.