A College Tuition Plan New York Students Need

College costs and student debt are reaching crisis levels. The expenses associated with higher education present a daunting reality that hundreds of thousands of New York families are dealing with right now. What’s worse, the escalating financial burdens are hitting at a time when having a college degree has never been more important in a young person’s life.
 
The governor has offered a tuition assistance proposal, full of questionable cost estimates, restrictive eligibility, and false claims of “free” education for college students. However, I am proud that the Assembly Minority Conference has taken an honest, comprehensive and inclusive approach to dealing with the issue of college costs.  
 
MAKE COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE FOR ALL
 
The Affordable College for All Initiative would help a greater number of students – in both public and private institutions – than the governor’s plan. It also extends much-needed financial assistance to graduate students and young people saddled with the burden of student loan debt. The basic elements of our plan would:
 
Increase The Household Income Threshold – The state’s existing Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is outdated. The household eligibility limit for TAP eligibility of $80,000 has not been changed since 2000. The state’s minimum wage has been adjusted eight times since 2014, but the TAP limit has remained stagnant. That’s inexcusable. I propose raising the threshold to $125,000 over the next three years, bringing more students into the program.  
 
Make The TAP Awards Bigger – Under our proposal, students would be eligible for more TAP assistance than ever. Over the next three years we will raise the maximum award to $6,470 – up from $5,165 – which reflects full tuition at SUNY schools. In addition, every TAP recipient would receive at least an increase of $500.
 
Assist Our Graduate Students – Once upon a time, graduate school students were eligible for tuition assistance from the state. That program ended in 2010, but it’s time to bring it back. The average grad school borrower takes on more than $57,000 in combined debt from graduate and undergraduate education.
 
Student Loan Payers Deserve A Tax Break – New York gives tax breaks to Hollywood studios and luxury yacht owners. But no program exists for college graduates dealing with debt. We’ve proposed a taxable income reduction (on both principal and interest) for people paying student loans. Under our plan, single filers can receive up to $4,000, head of household filers can receive up to $6,000, and married filers can receive up to $8,000.   
 
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH IS THE ONLY WAY     
                                                                              

If Albany is going to tackle the issue of student debt, it’s going to need far more than what the governor has suggested. His proposal completely ignores private school students, sets credit-hour requirements that will render some ineligible, does nothing to help alleviate current college debt, and is available to only a sliver of New York’s total student population.
 
The average debt for a student attending a four-year college in New York is $32,000.  We need a more thoughtful approach that directly addresses the realities of the educational landscape and provides relief to as many young people and families as possible. Our Affordable College For All Initiative does just that. 
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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