2014-15 TAP Testimony Vancko

Examining the New York State Tuition Assistance Program - President Candace Vancko, SUNY Delhi

 

Introduction

I would first like to thank all members of the Committee for having us here today, with a special thank you on behalf of myself and the postsecondary students of New York State to Assemblyperson Glick for spearheading the 2014/15 Enacted Budget increase to the TAP program ceiling, the first such increase since the start of the 2000’s.

In addition, I look forward to speaking to the benefits of this important program for SUNY Delhi’s students, as well as taking any questions you may have.

The Tuition Assistance Program in Action at SUNY Delhi

As one of the most generous student aid grant programs in the nation, TAP has ensured that thousands of New York State residents have had the opportunity to pursue their educational goals at SUNY Delhi. These student grants, combined with federal programs and campus-based scholarships including but not limited to the Tuition Credit, have reduced or eliminated tuition costs, and helped to mitigate the remaining cost of attendance for students during both the recent fiscal crisis and into the current day.

In recent years our TAP population has stayed steady, standing at just over 1,720 in 2013/14 with 400 of those students receiving the full benefit of the program. In addition, the recent change to the TAP law allowing for a higher grant to orphans, foster children, and wards of the court has greatly benefited Delhi’s population in this category. While I will note that the impacted group within Delhi itself is limited, the benefits of this change are difficult to explain in words, as these students – out of all students within SUNY and at Delhi – are amongst those with the greatest need for this type of assistance.

Finally, our TAP population is successful. For those students who receive this benefit, our graduation and retention rates are in line with the rest of the Delhi population, and Delhi’s retention and graduation rates exceed the sector and national averages, showing that this investment by the State in these students is leading to results and continues to be a worthy use of New York’s limited resources. I would be remiss if I did not mention the achievements of the students enrolled in our Construction Management programs. Since 2011, every program graduate has been hired by the time they graduate from SUNY Delhi. Ninety (90) percent of the graduates are employed in New York State with an average starting salary of over $53,000, and one graduate even starting at $104,000.

Improvements to the Tuition Assistance Program

While we are proud of the accomplishments of our TAP recipients, improvements to the Program would benefit SUNY Delhi students in many ways. When you consider that one-third of Delhi students come from families with incomes under $30,000, the importance of financial aid cannot be understated. These students are, in most cases, the first member of their families to attend college and their commitment to achieving a college degree is exemplary.

I echo the comments of both our senior vice Provost Lane and Assistant Vice Chancellor Thompson in calling for limited improvements to the TAP program. The discussed changes would build upon the recent victories the Assembly has helped bring about for New York’s students, and continue to provide a wide range of opportunities for residents of New York State to receive the education they seek, wherever they seek it.

Chief among these improvements would be the adjustment to the part-time TAP program, which would finally address the changing college going profile; providing for those students who must juggle a college career with a job or family responsibilities. For these students, full-time attendance is just not realistic and New York must be flexible enough to realize the new attendance reality of many students. Finally due thought should be given to increasing the income threshold for independent students who do not have dependents. As you know, if an independent student in New York is not married, has no dependents, and has a net taxable income of more than $10,000, he or she will receive absolutely no assistance from the TAP program. Even more distressing, such a student with a net taxable income of more than $3,000 receives a reduced TAP award. As you can see, these restrictions all but remove from TAP eligibility those students who would want to earn a living wage, and increase the possibility that these students will face issues with their studies due to working and attending classes.

The discussed adjustment to the part-time TAP program and the income threshold for independent students would hold tremendous benefits for Delhi students. As I mentioned earlier in my testimony, one-third of our students are from families with incomes below $30,000. Twenty-five (25) percent of our students are enrolled part-time in online baccalaureate degree programs in Nursing and Criminal Justice that lead directly to employment and career advancement. The caliber of these programs and our students are outstanding; as evidenced by SUNY Delhi being honored this year for having one of the best online baccalaureate programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Reports.

Conclusion

Thank you again for providing my colleagues from System Administration and me the opportunity to speak to you today. I continue to appreciate and value all the time and effort that you and your fellow legislators put into your work for SUNY and the State as a whole. I look forward to your questions, and to working with you during this budget cycle and beyond to ensure a successful future for New York’s students and its comprehensive, statewide, public university system.

 

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