Buffalo News Publishes Op-Ed by CICU President Lola W. Brabham Calling for Investment in TAP

News Date: 3/28/2022

The Buffalo News published an op-ed authored by CICU President Lola W. Brabham calling on lawmakers to prioritize investments in New York's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) in the FY23 New York State Budget. 

Another Voice: Lawmakers must make new investments in tuition assistance

The Tuition Assistance Program is the centerpiece of New York State’s student aid program. For nearly 50 years, hundreds of thousands of students have relied on TAP to help make college more affordable.

This year, the New York State Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul have proposed investments in TAP that would be transformational for students and families across the state. As state leaders work to finalize the fiscal year 2023 state budget, there is an opportunity to modernize TAP and ensure all students have access to affordable higher education.

While the state is recovering, many students and families are still struggling financially as a result of the pandemic and inflation. TAP has seen modest increases at best over the last few decades, but those increases have not come close to meeting the needs of New Yorkers, and they are certainly not keeping pace now with more families hurting. Eligibility has remained stagnant, so fewer families qualify for aid each year. Award amounts have barely budged in 20 years, so each year TAP awards cover less of the cost of college.

With the Assembly and Senate one-house budget proposals, help for New York’s college students may be on the way.

The Assembly calls for a $109 million increase to TAP funding, which would allow the program to increase the maximum grant from $5,665 to $7,070 over two years. This brings the maximum award in line with SUNY tuition, closing the TAP gap. This would be the largest increase to the TAP award in nearly 20 years and would make a tremendous difference to the students and families who need this aid the most.

Both the Senate and Assembly propose increasing the minimum TAP award to $1,000, another desperately needed change. The minimum award has been stuck at $500 for more than 20 years; that amount of aid doesn’t go as far today as it did in 2000. Students deserve more help.

The Senate has also proposed significantly increasing eligibility for TAP by raising the income limit for TAP from $80,000 to $110,000. It is estimated that this would make 24,000 more New York students eligible for TAP statewide. Household incomes have risen by about 18% since the income limit for TAP was last adjusted, meaning that every year fewer New York families are eligible to receive TAP because they exceed the income threshold.

Both the Senate and the Assembly also include the governor’s proposal to finally expand TAP to part-time and incarcerated students, which New York’s private, not-for-profit colleges and universities strongly support. It is critical that the state make a significant investment in student aid. These proposed enhancements to TAP will directly benefit the students who need it most and will help to reduce reliance on student loans.

We urge the Legislature to seize this moment to make a transformational investment in TAP and in the futures of the thousands of New York’s college students who benefit from it.

Lola W. Brabham is the president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York.