Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly's State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2020-21 proposed budget would build on the Assembly Majority's longstanding commitment to supporting high quality, public education for all. The proposed plan would make critical investments in the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY), reject proposed tuition increases, provide new funding for non-tuition expenses and invest in community colleges.
"The Assembly Majority has long recognized that higher education is critical to establishing a pathway to the middle class for New Yorkers," said Speaker Heastie. "This year marks five years since we created the Higher Education Road to Success Initiative, and since then we have continued to build on that promise. Our proposed budget will reflect our unwavering commitment to higher education by breaking down even more barriers and putting our students on the path to success."
"We are committed to ensuring that New York continues to provide students the best higher education system in the nation, and that students have the support they need to be successful," said Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick. "Over the last five years, we have fought to keep higher education within reach for our students, and to provide greater access to critical campus resources such as libraries and research facilities."
Critical Investments in SUNY/CUNY and Elimination of TAP Gap
In 2011, NYSUNY 2020 was enacted to establish a predictable tuition plan that allows each SUNY and CUNY campus to raise tuition over a period of five years. When it was enacted, SUNY and CUNY agreed to assume the cost differential between the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and the actual cost of tuition. This differential causes a loss in revenue for the systems, often referred to as the "TAP gap." The Assembly's proposed SFY 2020-21 Budget includes $50 million in funding for SUNY and CUNY to help close this gap and ensure they are able to hire world class faculty, help students to graduate on-time and provide supportive services such as tutoring and mental health programming.
Rejection of Proposed Tuition Increases
Over the last nine years, tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools has increased by $2,300, or 40 percent, placing a significant financial burden on students and increasing the TAP gap. The Assembly has continually rejected proposed tuition increases for SUNY and CUNY schools, and will again reject any proposed tuition increase beyond Academic Year (AY) 2021 in the proposed SFY 2020-21 Budget.
Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund for Non-Tuition Expenses
In 2016, Speaker Heastie and the Assembly Majority championed efforts to secure the enactment of President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, making New York the first state in the nation to commit to this innovative, multi-faceted agenda to overcome challenges and improve outcomes for boys and young men of color. Since then, the Assembly Majority has fought to offer similar support for students on their journey to achieving higher education. The true cost of college is much greater than just tuition – it includes costs such as room and board, fees, transportation, textbooks and other education-related expenses. The Assembly's proposed SFY 2020-21 Budget will include $20 million to establish a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund that would help offset these non-tuition costs for low income students that are receiving a TAP award.
Proven Champions for Higher Education
In one of his first actions as speaker, Speaker Heastie created the Higher Education Road to Success to build bridges to higher education for New York's students. Since 2015, this initiative has provided a more than 40 percent increase in funding support for opportunity programs that help thousands of low and middle income families afford a college education.
The Road to Success initiative also included the creation of the Foster Youth College Success Initiative to improve college graduation prospects among a student population that faces unique challenges in completing their education. This highly successful program began with an Assembly-led $1.5 million commitment in 2015 that has since grown to $6 million in the most recently enacted SFY 2019-20 Budget.
Community colleges offer the type of flexible and affordable higher education experience that is critical to helping New York's diverse student population climb the economic ladder. On the state level, community colleges are funded on a per pupil basis through Base Aid. As the economy has improved, enrollment in community colleges has decreased, resulting in colleges being eligible for less funding from the state. In order to ensure that community colleges are able to continue to provide a high quality affordable education, last year the Assembly fought to establish a funding floor for community colleges.
In 2019, during a time of heightened fear and uncertainty for immigrants in the United States, the Assembly-championed Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act was finally passed into law. The SFY 2019-2020 Budget included $27 million to help ensure immigrant children are able to access higher education and fully participate in the state's economy.
Nationally, more than 45 million student loan borrowers collectively owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Undoubtedly, the climb up the economic ladder becomes increasingly difficult when it begins with the heavy burden of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
SUNY and CUNY have allowed countless New Yorkers to break the cycle of poverty and join the middle class. Three of the top 10 colleges for social mobility are CUNY schools, with Baruch College ranked number one.