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Published March 8, 2005 at Binghamton University, Vestal, N.Y.

Assemblywoman talks tuition, TAP at BU
By Mackenzie Wen
Contributing Writer

photo photo by Jenny Kelly

The increasing cost of higher education must be stopped, a local assemblywoman said.

Donna A. Lupardo talked to Binghamton University students Thursday about Governor George Pataki’s proposed fiscal policy, which will raise tuition by $500 and cut various opportunity programs, most notably the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

"Handing over the TAP award defeats the purpose of the program," said Lupardo, the first woman to represent Broome County on the state legislature. "It saves the state a few million dollars, but at the expense of the students."

Lupardo is also a member of the New York State Assembly from the 126th Assembly District and serves on the Assembly Higher Education Committee. She said that BU needs a vocal advocate.

Lupardo said the state has a pattern for taking away financial support for students. And even though prices are increasing, students are not getting a better education.

She added that the budget proposal asks students to loan the state up to 50 percent of their (TAP) reward – money that some students need just to meet basic tuition costs.

Also present at the discussion was Dr. James Pogue, the director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). He said that in some cases, the aid that EOP gives students might alleviate some of the pressure caused by the responsibility of assisting their families’ incomes. But this also might be decreasing under proposed plans.

With the current award policy, eligible students can receive over $15,000 in financial aid, all of which is subsidized by the state. But if Pataki’s budget proposal passes, nearly $4,000 of loans will be unsubsidized, which means the student would be paying back the loan with the interest set at the current market rate.

State subsidization is helpful to many students, and without that crutch, some of them may be steeped in debt long after they graduate, Pogue said.

"Students should be able to focus on their academics instead of getting extra jobs," he said.

Pogue also said EOP students do not ‘take someone’s place’ when they are admitted to the school. They are counted as a ‘special population,’ and their eligibility is considered on a different basis than other students, similar to exceptional high school athletes or musicians.

Removing the support that EOP provides to students may diminish school enrollment, Pogue said, especially of people from New York City, the area from which EOP funds the most students. He added that while people may not like to acknowledge it, the diminishing of EOP support would lessen the racial diversity on campus. He urged people at the discussion to contact their legislators about TAP and the tuition increase.

"Five minutes is all it takes to make the phone call, and it will make a difference," he said.

During the presentation, Darren Hearn, the project coordinator of New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) at BU, said that the state justifies putting a greater burden on the students because a higher education provides them with valuable skills and an education. Yet, he said, education is better for society because an education creates more qualified workers, which leads to a larger tax base.

"It’s a disaster," Hearn said after the lecture. "It hurts students."

He pointed out statistics showing that over the past decade, state funding for higher education has decreased by 17.5 percent, while tuition costs have increased by 29 percent.

J. Michael Friedling W., a sophomore math major, who attended the presentation, agreed with the speakers that something needs to be done about the cuts to opportunity programs.

"If there was one word I would say, it would be ‘unjustifiable,’" he said. "There’s a budget crisis, and taxes should be raised. But Pataki’s cutting taxes – so they’re charging students."

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