March 5 – Students from private colleges across New York are asking for more state funding for financial aid programs such as the Tuition Assistance Program and the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, which provides aid and support for disadvantaged students.
Hundreds of students attended the advocacy day, and many shared their stories about struggling with the financial burden of college. The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents more than 100 private, non-profit colleges across New York state, organized the rally in Albany to let students and educators talk about how TAP and HEOP programs open up opportunities for economically and educationally disadvantaged students.
“Without TAP I wouldn’t have been able to get through my first term here at school,” said Brandon, an HEOP student at Union College. “I received an email saying I might not be able to be readmitted back into the school. As a student of color and a student athlete it was heartbreaking to hear I possibly couldn’t be able to go to school.”
An increase in Brandon’s TAP award allowed him to attend his second term at Union College.
“If there [is not an increase in] the HEOP program, within the TAP program, I don’t know where I am going to be after this.”
Many students like Brandon spoke at the rally to show how higher education programs can enable disadvantaged students to attend college.
“I’m from one of the worst neighborhoods in East New York. They think nobody from that area is ever going to graduate and go to [college]. And I am here in upstate New York talking to legislators,” Brandon said.
The 2020-2021 Executive Budget proposed an increase of $257 million, or 3.4 percent, for all higher education programs, bringing total state spending on colleges and universities to $7.8 billion.
The Higher Education Services Corporation, which oversees student loans and other financial aid programs such as TAP and services about 380,000 students, also increased by 3.2 percent in the Executive Budget, an increase of $34 million.
The Center for Independent Colleges and Universities, a statewide coalition of private colleges, is calling for more funding for TAP over the next three years; increasing the minimum TAP award from $500 to $1,000 and the highest award from $5,165 to $6,000; and changing TAP eligibility incomes from $80,000 to $110,000.
“We have a problem right now where we’re not doing a sufficient job, ensuring private and public schools get enough resources to ensure we get high quality education,” said Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, D-East Village.
According to the CICU, New York State spends $92 million less on TAP than it did from 2014-2015, enrolling 49,000 less recipients from 2018-2019.
TAP and higher education opportunity programs provide economic and educational access to disadvantaged students attending private colleges.
The Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) was created in 1969, in partnership between private colleges and New York state. It was designed to provide opportunities to students who show academic promise but are economically and educationally disadvantaged.
HEOP helps fund provides pre-collegiate programs, and academic and mentor programs for students once in college.
The CICU supports an increase in HEOP from $35.53 million in 2019-2020 to $42.43 million in the 2020-2021 budget.
“We’ve been at static funding for such a long time and it hasn’t taken into account the cost of living. Prices of everything else have gone up,” said Deborah J. Veith, the project director at Liberty Partnerships Program, a high school dropout prevention program aimed at sending students to private colleges.
The governor is proposing a $213 million increase for higher education opportunity programs and training centers.
“The increases [in funding for Higher Education Opportunity Programs] are important because they [students] come back to help the state,” said Senator Toby Stavinsky, D-Upper West Side, the chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Students who graduate will earn more money, they stay in the community and they purchase locally.”
Melinda Martinez Harris, the director of Liberty Partnership Program, said she was able to earn two degrees and become a college valedictorian because of HEOP.
“Because of the time 15 years ago that somebody believed in me, I’m paying it full circle to give opportunities to young men and women like you,” said Harris.