Dr. Drew Bogner Testifies Before Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Higher Education

News Date: 2/4/2021

On Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, CICU Interim President Dr. Drew Bogner testified before a Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Higher Education. An excerpt of his testimony is below. Click here to read Dr. Bogner's full testimony

The past year has challenged New York’s colleges in ways unfathomable only twelve months ago. After deciding to send all students home early last spring as the pandemic began, our members quickly pivoted to virtual learning. Both students and professors rose to the immense challenges of this new model. At the same time, private colleges in New York worked together to form a task force to envision how campuses could safely reopen in the fall, producing a report that formed the basis for many colleges’ reopening plans. As colleges spent the summer weighing whether, and how, to safely reopen in the fall, they were under a constant economic strain caused by the pandemic. Private colleges made huge investments in PPE, testing programs, contact tracing, and improved remote learning. Meanwhile, their expected revenues plummeted. Overall the financial toll of the pandemic on New York’s private college tops $2 billion and continues to climb.

College students and their families are also struggling – in addition to losing out on many of the normal college experiences they expected, students have faced lost jobs and internships and many are helping to support families that are reeling from the financial crisis. Through it all, though, these students continue to pursue their studies and remain committed to their career paths.

Today I am calling on New York to maintain its commitment to these students and families. I want to remind you of who our students are.

New York is home to the nation’s largest independent sector of higher education. Here’s a look at our sector by the numbers:

  • 100+ private colleges and universities;
  • 40 percent of all college students in the state attend private colleges; nearly 500,000 students total, more than half of whom are New York residents;
  • Two-thirds of private college students in New York are from families that earn less than $125,000 annually;
  • 40 percent of the Black and Latinx students who attend college in New York attend a private college;
  • New York’s private colleges confer 49 percent of the bachelor’s, 72 percent of the master’s and 78 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded in the state annually;
  • 415,000 jobs supported by New York private colleges;
  • $88.8 billion annual economic impact;
  • New York is the No. 1 destination for U.S. students who leave their home state for college and the No. 2 destination for international students who leave their home country for college; many of these students stay in New York after graduation, keeping their talents in New York.

Despite the massive impact of our sector and the huge number of students we educate, New York ranks 17th in the nation in its per capita need-based support for students at private, not-for-profit colleges. Our campuses have helped communities throughout the state weather these challenging economic times. We serve as cultural beacons, meeting hubs, and economic engines for our communities. The economic and social impact of our presence, particularly during the pandemic, is visible across the state through the research, job creation, and work that our students and faculty have done in the fields of healthcare and technology to support New York’s fight against COVID-19.

Higher education is at a crossroads, buffeted by changing demographics, the need to provide more support services to our students, and the myriad challenges presented by the pandemic which continue to disrupt higher education and the student experience. This legislative body will play an instrumental role in determining whether New York’s colleges surmount these forces and continue to serve as transformative agents in the lives of thousands of students and in communities across the state.

Investment in higher education is an investment in our state’s future, and that also means an investment in our state’s ability to build back stronger from this pandemic. Independent colleges are an essential workforce pipeline, educating and training students to become the nurses, doctors, and scientists of the future. And this year, as our state faces a looming multi-billion-dollar deficit, it is more important than ever that we direct resources toward students who need the most. This means investing in proven student aid programs that support the greatest number of students and ensuring that higher education remains accessible and affordable to every New Yorker, regardless of whether they choose to study at a public or private institution.

Direct Institutional “Bundy” Aid

The 2021-22 Executive Budget proposal eliminates Bundy Aid, leveling a tremendous blow to the more than 500,000 students who attend private colleges. This 50-year-old program is the only source of operating aid New York provides the 100+ private, not-for-profit colleges in our state. The funding is used for student aid and other supports that help students get over the finish line to graduation. The program is outcome-based and student-focused with colleges receiving funds based on the number of degrees they confer. For many years, the state has provided $35.13 million in Bundy Aid, less than 20 percent of the amount outlined by statute. In addition to erasing Bundy Aid, the 2021-22 Executive Budget proposes not restoring any of the Bundy Aid funds withheld during the current fiscal year and cancels future Bundy Aid payments due in the current fiscal year (FY 2021). This amounts to a devastating $51.9 million cut for private, not-for-profit colleges. 

We ask that you reject proposed cuts to Bundy Aid in both the FY22 and FY21 budgets.

Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)

TAP is New York’s signature student aid program. For decades it has helped students from New York’s lowest income families afford to go to college and earn a degree. We are grateful that the Executive Budget proposal holds funding for TAP flat but we ask that the Legislature consider increasing TAP’s impact by making important investments in the program.

In recent years, TAP has helped fewer and fewer students because the program has not kept pace with students’ needs. Today, New York spends $119 million (12 percent) less on TAP than it did in 2015-16; 49,000 fewer students (16 percent) received TAP in 2019-20 than in 2015-16. Unless action is taken to expand TAP, this alarming decline is projected to continue (see Appendix B).

The income limit for TAP has remained at $80,000 since 2000, shutting many deserving families out of TAP eligibility. TAP award amounts have also not kept up with the rate of inflation or with student need. The maximum award was stagnant at $5,000 for more than a decade until it was increased by three percent ($165) in 2014-15 to $5,165, an increase that was led by this legislative body. Since then, the maximum award amount has not changed. The minimum award amount has also remained stagnant at $500.

If the state receives the critical federal relief funds requested by the Governor, we ask that you begin a three-year phase-in to increase the maximum TAP award to $6,000, the minimum TAP award to $1,000, and the maximum income eligibility to $110,000. Making these increases will bring the program’s total cost to less than the state spent on TAP in 2017-18.

TAP is the equity-based, progressive solution to college affordability that provides the most support to families with the lowest incomes and the widest attainment gaps. Approximately 58,000 private college students qualify for TAP — that represents 32 percent of the resident undergraduates enrolled in our sector. Three-quarters of those students are from families that earn less than $40,000 annually and half are from families that earn less than $20,000 annually.

They are counting on New York’s leaders to provide the support they need to continue to pursue their college education. Without it, these students’ college dreams risk being yet another thing lost to the pandemic.