Senate Unveils Higher Education Proposals

 

State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio and members of the State Senate today introduced a comprehensive package of proposals that would make obtaining a college education more affordable for New York’s students. The proposed legislation will help families with soaring tuition expenses and provide new incentives to college students to keep them living and working in New York when they graduate. The legislation would also recognize the sacrifices and service of our military personnel by making it easier for New York’s servicemen and women to attend college.

“With such an importance being placed on having the skills necessary to compete in today’s knowledge-based economy, obtaining a college degree has never been more critical,” said Senator Nozzolio. “However, educating our students should not break the family budget. These initiatives will ensure greater access to quality higher education opportunities by making college more affordable for students and their families.”

The proposals include expanding the eligibility for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), enhancing the tuition tax credit for families, establishing a student loan debt relief program, providing assistance to help our veterans afford college tuition and creating a math, science and engineering technology retention initiative for New York’s students.

The changing economic circumstances in New York and throughout the nation, particularly in relation to the costs of a college education, require that these programs be upgraded to alleviate the financial burden being placed on New York’s hardworking families.

TUITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TAP) ENHANCEMENT:

The maximum TAP award has remained unchanged since 2000. Although SUNY ($4,350) and CUNY ($4,000) tuition rates are still below the maximum TAP award of $5,000, they have risen by 28 percent and 25 percent respectively since 2000, while tuition rates at independent colleges and universities have increased by 33 percent.

The 2007 TAP expansion/enhancement initiative will raise the minimum TAP award under the TAP award schedule for families with dependent students from $500 to $1,000. The initiative would also change the TAP award schedule to enhance awards to middle-income New Yorkers.

EXPANDING TUITION TAX CREDITS:

To help families keep pace with the rising cost of higher education, the Senate is proposing an increase in the amount of deductible tuition expenses for New York families to $14,000 from $10,000. The tax credit will increase from 4 percent to 5 percent of eligible tuition expenses, or a maximum of $700, instead of the current maximum of $400, benefiting all New Yorkers with college expenses.

STUDENT LOAN DEBT RELIEF PROGRAM:

To assist students with college loans, and to give them an incentive to stay in New York State, this proposal establishes the New York State Student Loan Debt Relief Program to provide a tax credit of up to 50 percent for college graduates (maximum of $1,000) toward student loan payments per year for those earning $50,000 or less.

To be eligible, tax filers are required to remain an employed resident of New York State during the period they claim the tax credit and must also have received a degree from an approved higher education institution in New York.

The loan program will substantially reduce the default rate while providing incentives for college graduates to remain in New York State after graduation. It will pay up to $1,000 to each qualified graduate.

MATH, SCIENCE & ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY:

Enhancing New York’s competitiveness in a technology-driven global economy is a critical component to higher education. This proposal establishes the New York State Math, Science and Engineering Technology Retention Program to increase the pool of science, engineering and technology professionals in the state, and to keep these graduates in New York.

The initiative provides $1,000 in state grant money in the first year to 1,000 undergraduate or graduate students living in New York State with a degree in math, science or engineering technology for each year of employment in any science, engineering or technology field, other than teaching, in New York State for up to five years for degrees awarded in the 2007-08 academic year and beyond.

In addition to increasing the amount of professionals in these critical fields, a related initiative would increase the number of annual awards under the New York State Math and Science Teaching Incentive Program to 750 from 500. This existing program was designed to increase the number of certified middle and high school math and science teachers, by providing students enrolled in an approved teachers' certification program with tuition reimbursement up to the amount of SUNY tuition for each year they complete in that program.

Under this proposal, recipients must agree to teach in the classroom on a full-time basis for five years in the field of math or science in a school located within New York State.

VETERANS TUITION AWARD PROGRAM:

Currently, veterans who serve in harm’s way are provided only $2,000 in state grants if they enroll in an approved vocational, undergraduate or graduate program. This measure would increase the maximum tuition assistance grant to veterans of the Iraq, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan or Korean Wars from $2,000 to $4,350 or equivalent tuition rate at SUNY schools.