(left to right) Dr. O’Keefe and Dr. Guarasci join Assemblywoman Malliotakis and Wagner students in calling for increased tuition assistance.

Today Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C,I-East Shore) was joined by Dr. Richard Guarasci of Wagner College and Dr. James O’Keefe of St. John’s University, along with Wagner College students, at a press conference to oppose Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship program and push Malliotakis’s tuition assistance proposals. The Governor’s program would provide free tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000, who attend SUNY and CUNY schools, while Malliotakis’ proposal would increase the household income eligibility threshold so more middle class families can qualify for existing TAP awards. The threshold has not increased since 2000, leaving middle class families earning more than $80,000 without any assistance. Malliotakis has also been pushing for the restoration of TAP assistance for graduate students throughout the past few legislative sessions. It was eliminated in 2010.

“The state’s final budget should include a modernization of the state’s existing Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for New York’s students. The Governor’s ‘free tuition’ plan missed the mark in making college more accessible. We are offering a much more equitable and effective means to finally bring real tuition relief by increasing the household income cap threshold, providing an additional $500 to every TAP recipient with an increase of the maximum TAP award to $6,470, and also make grad programs eligible for TAP,” said Assemblywoman Malliotakis. “Students should be able to apply their TAP award at any institution, public or private. The governor’s proposal strips TAP awards from many privately educated college students, which is unfair. Our plan will help more middle class families and allow students and families to pick the college that best meets their educational needs.”

“There are three specific issues to which we need to pay attention: affordability, parity, and portability. Private institutions represent the majority of undergraduates in the State of New York, which is unusual when compared with the rest of the country, and even those schools with smaller endowments will contribute a significant portion of their private funding to assist students with tuition. We also need to achieve parity and portability by offering assistance that doesn’t require the student to attend public institutions, instead offering all of New York’s colleges to them and allowing them to take advantage of academic programs that suit their education goals,” said Dr. Guarasci, President of Wagner College.

According to a study by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU), for every $1 in TAP that a student brings to a private college, those colleges provide $23, on average, in financial aid directly from their own funds.

“College affordability and college access are critical and essential issued to St. John’s University. Of all of the private colleges in the state, we are the largest recipient of TAP funds with over 4,000 students receiving more than $12 million in assistance. We need a better proposal that increases assistance for all New York college students,” said Dr. James O’Keefe, Vice Provost of St. John’s University – Staten Island Campus.

A study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that “free” tuition would cause private, non-profit colleges and universities to see a drop between 7%-15% in enrollment.

The state budget is currently being negotiated, with a goal of being finalized by the end of this month.