On the Million Dollar Staircase in the State Capitol Wednesday, student-government leaders, union officers and more than 100 student activists rallied for public funding — not tuition increases — to improve the quality of public higher education.
Together with members of the Assembly and Senate higher education committees, they called on the Legislature and the governor to close a growing gap in college revenues caused by a flaw in the laws governing TAP, the state Tuition Assistance Program.
"Offering an affordable higher education is an important goal our state must meet, but we also need to ensure we provide proper support for our SUNY and CUNY campuses,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “If we want to give the best education and services we possibly can to our students, we must address the TAP Gap problem in this year's budget.”
The “TAP Gap” is the growing difference between TAP funding for students and actual tuition costs. Prior to 2011, low-income SUNY and CUNY students would have their tuition costs covered in full by TAP, with colleges receiving adequate TAP payments to help cover costs for hiring new staff, funding libraries and investing in student support services.
But for every tuition hike since 2011, colleges have had to cover the difference between state TAP awards and the actual tuition cost for these students. The gap between what the state pays for TAP at SUNY and CUNY (up to $5,000) and the actual cost of tuition — $6,870 at SUNY and $6,730 at CUNY — has left colleges grappling with a $139 million shortfall in funding statewide.
“We hope lawmakers will increase aid to SUNY to hire more full-time tenure-track faculty, expand course offerings, and help our public teaching hospitals,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. He also urged the state “to cover the cost to close the TAP Gap, which will make a difference for cash-strapped campuses.”
PSC President Barbara Bowen said, “New York cannot risk waiting another year to fix the funding model. Start by filling the TAP Gap, a built-in deficit-creator that is punishing CUNY senior colleges for every low-income student they enroll.”
The activists urged the Assembly and the new Senate majority to close the TAP Gap in their one-house budget resolutions, and called on legislative leaders and the governor to make it a priority in final budget negotiations.
Lawmakers who were there, including Senate Higher Ed Chair Toby Stavisky. D–Queens, and Assembly Higher Ed Chair Deborah Glick, D–Manhattan, got the message.
“By closing the TAP Gap, we can make certain that SUNY and CUNY remain world-class higher education institutions for the next generation of students,” Glick said.