March 13, 2017

Assembly One-House Budget Invests $15.7 Billion in Higher Education and Restores College Affordability for New York's Lowest Income Families

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick today announced that the Assembly's budget proposal for SFY 2017-18 promotes college affordability by increasing funding for opportunity programs, expanding the Tuition Assistance Program and enactment of the DREAM Act. The proposal also earmarks more than $1.4 billion for capital investments at public colleges and universities around the state and includes a new directive to explore options for refinancing student loan debt for New York residents.

"Increasing access to affordable quality education is a cornerstone of the Assembly Majority's mission to put families first and provide meaningful solutions to grow and maintain New York's middle class," said Heastie. "As promised, this budget builds on the progress of previous years and raises the bar on our investments in higher education while seeking solutions to alleviate New York's crippling student loan debt. We are pushing for true affordability that supports as many students as possible in the path to achieving a college education."

"This budget is proof of the Assembly Majority's commitment to delivering a higher education system that is accessible and affordable for every family," said Assemblymember Glick. "This funding will ensure that more students will be able to attend college and receive the support they need to graduate and pursue successful futures."

New York's SUNY and CUNY systems are an invaluable asset in making college affordable for students and their families. In keeping with its promise to build and maintain access to higher education for middle and low-income families, the Assembly budget provides $48 million to restore and provide a 20 percent increase for opportunity programs over SFY 2016-17 funding levels as follows:

The Assembly proposal includes $12.9 million for SUNY and $6.5 million for CUNY to provide a $100 increase in per student aid to community colleges. The maximum award under the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) would be increased by $335 from $5,165 to $5,500 per student and over the next four years, would gradually be increased to $6,500. Part-time TAP would be funded at $40 million to help students with families and other obligations to access affordable college education at the state's community colleges.

In recognition of the debt burden that continues to hamper economic opportunities for individuals and working families, the Assembly budget directs the Higher Education Services Corporation and the Dormitory Authority to develop recommendations for a plan to refinance student loan debt for New York State residents that have been out of college for 10 years or more. The proposal would also reduce student-borne expenses by directing SUNY and CUNY to adapt their practices to facilitate the utilization of electronic and online learning resources for students.

The Executive proposal for free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools would be modified to provide greater flexibility to students by easing the requirement that they take 15 credits each semester and instead permit up to two 12-credit semesters to ensure that students can remain successful while pursuing on-time graduation. Other improvements would provide accommodations for special needs students and provide for adjustments in the program's tuition reimbursement rate to keep up with tuition growth. The Assembly proposal would also raise the maximum income level to qualify to $150,000 in the fourth year of the program.

Other investments would continue funding support for longstanding Assembly priorities, including $60.04 million for the Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC), plus an additional $30 million for EOC capital funding; a $250,000 restoration to support the CUNY Pipeline at the Graduate Center; and $6.5 million for ATTAIN Labs. Other SUNY budget actions include:

For SFY 2017-18, the Assembly builds on the successful Foster Youth initiative started in 2015 by earmarking $4.5 million to support foster students on their path to higher education. The proposal would restore $2.5 million for CUNY ASAP and continue the Assembly's commitment to help families working to advance their education by restoring nearly $2 million to support child care centers at SUNY and CUNY campuses.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Assembly budget includes the New York State DREAM Act and invests $27 million to provide eligible immigrant students with access to TAP, scholarships and opportunity programs. It would also allow immigrant families who have a taxpayer identification number to open a New York 529 Family Tuition savings account.

To support capital efforts, the Assembly provides $500 million for CUNY, an increase of $100 million over the Executive proposal and $908 million for SUNY, a $180 million increase to provide funding for new capital projects. The plan also restores $18.6 million in support for SUNY Health Science Centers for a total investment of $87.9 million.

In order to protect a student's choice to attend independent institutions, the Assembly rejects the Executive's proposal to withhold Bundy aid funding and TAP awards from independent colleges if the institutions have increased tuition more than $500 a year or the three year average of the Higher Education Price Index, whichever is greater.

Among other actions in the Assembly budget are proposals to require CUNY and SUNY to examine access to opportunity program funds for transfer students and a new authorization for the State Education Department to spend $4.3 million of existing funds to begin development of an e-Licensing system for the professions.