Senator Flanagan Supports Plan To Make Higher Education More Affordable For New York State Families

 

Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today announced that a comprehensive higher education package he cosponsored to make obtaining a college education more affordable has passed the Senate. The legislative package, which has been sent to the Assembly, will help families with soaring tuition expenses, provide new incentives to college students to keep them living and working in New York when they graduate.

The Senate approved legislation will also recognize the sacrifices and service of our military personnel by making it easier for New York veterans of all wars to attend college.

TUITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TAP) ENHANCEMENT: The maximum TAP award has remained unchanged since 2000. Although SUNY and CUNY tuition rates are still below the maximum TAP award of $5,000, they have risen in the past few years and present significant financial challenges to New York students.

To assist families facing these rising costs, the 2007 TAP expansion/enhancement legislation will:
Increase dependent students household income eligibility cap for TAP from $80,000 to $100,000 net taxable income (NTI).

Increase nondependent students income eligibility for TAP from $10,000 to $12,500 net taxable income (NTI).

Raise the minimum TAP award under the TAP award schedule for families with dependent students from $500 to $1,000.

Change the TAP award schedule to enhance awards to middle-income New Yorkers.

Expanding TAP will help New York families keep pace with the rising cost of higher education and extend TAP benefits to 21,000 more New York State families. The state investment in this expansion will be $103.4 million in the 2007-08 with a full annual investment of $147.7 million.

EXPANDING TUITION TAX CREDITS: To help families keep pace with the rising cost of higher education, the Senate Majority proposes an increase in the amount of deductible tuition expenses for New York families to $14,000 from $10,000. This tax credit will also increase from 4 percent to 5 percent of eligible tuition expenses, or a maximum of $700. This will benefit all New York families facing college expenses.

STUDENT LOAN DEBT RELIEF PROGRAM: The average college graduate from a public institution now owes $15,000 in student loan debt, or $21,000 if they attended a private university. For many graduates, this debt will be a reality for 15 years or more after they graduate.

To assist students with this burden and to provide an incentive for them to stay in New York State after graduation, 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. The tax credit is available for five years, beginning in the 2007 tax year for those who graduate .

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.

MATH, SCIENCE & ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY: Enhancing New York’s competitiveness in a technology-driven global economy is a critical component to higher education. This component of the higher education package will establish 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 annual state grant money in the first year to 1,000 undergraduate or graduate students living in New York State for up to five years, beginning in the 2008 tax year. Those eligible would need a degree in math, science or engineering technology and be employed in any science, engineering or technology field, other than teaching, in New York State.

Under the proposal, 1,000 new undergraduate and graduate grants will be awarded each year for five years, for a total of 5,000 grants.

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.

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 piece of the higher education package would increase the maximum tuition assistance grant to veterans of all wars from $2,000 to $4,350 or equivalent tuition rate at SUNY schools.

"The reality is that educating and retaining the students of our region is so critical to the future of New York that this package is essential. This year, we worked to provide record amounts of school aid to our public schools to ensure that the quality of education in our schools and this is the next logical step in building on our commitment to the educational needs of our children. This package will make it easier for families to send their children to college and that is good for our entire state," stated Senator Flanagan.

The package was sent to the Assembly for action.


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