By Victor Ordonez
Fordham University’s associate vice president of government relations has urged the university community to protest the recent budget proposed by New York State Governor and Fordham alumni Andrew Cuomo.
The administration specifically requested that members of the Fordham community help to defeat “a current state budget proposal that could dramatically impact Fordham and other private colleges in New York State,” according to a mass email sent to Fordham Faculty from Lesley A. Massiah-Arhur, associate vice president of government relations and urban affairs. The email requested that those who agree on the proposal’s shortcomings submit electronic letters to elected officials.
Cuomo’s “Excelsior Scholarship” proposal would provide free tuition to students in families making up to $125,000 who attend SUNY or CUNY school. The scholarship will not aid those who attend private institutions like Fordham Universities.
Cuomo’s plan would deny tuition assistance to students who attend private colleges that increase tuition beyond an inflation index. However, Cuomo’s team said that this is due to the high tuition average for private institutions.
“Private school tuition in New York averages $34,000 a year compared to $6,400 at SUNY and CUNY, and independent colleges – who refuse to cap their out of control tuition hikes to even $500 a year – use state assistance as an excuse to jack up their costs so there’s no value to the student,” said Cuomo budget spokesman Morris Peters at a press conference.
Although Cuomo’s proposal will relieve SUNY and CUNY students of tuition, Massiah-Arthur argued that the new proposal’s cuts would greatly decrease current tuition aid available for students enrolled in private institutions.
“What is most troubling about the governor’s proposal is that it is based on the premise that the price that people see or the ‘sticker price’ is what many actually pay. The proposal does not consider the amount of institutional aid that private colleges, like Fordham, provide to their students. In actuality, most students do not pay the ‘sticker price’,” said Massiah-Arthur in an interview with The Fordham Ram. “So, in light of this, the real issue is not that of ‘free SUNY/CUNY college tuition’ per se; rather it is about limiting the ability of students and their families to make very personal choices about which college(s) best suit them and their needs.”
More than 93 percent of incoming freshmen received some form of financial aid to help defray the cost of attending Fordham, according to Fordham’s Financial Aid webpage.
Only seven percent of the Fordham student community pay full tuition.
The new proposal would cut 15 percent of opportunity and access pipeline programs such as the Higher Education Program (HOP) and Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), the according to Massiah-Arthur.
Massiah-Arthur said that any proposal to make college more affordable should benefit all students, regardless of where they go to school.
The Fordham administration recommended increasing the maximum TAP award to $6,500 for students with family incomes up to $125,000 who attend any accredited college, according to the mass email.
“The most efficient way of providing tuition relief is through TAP award,” said Massiah-Arthur in the email to faculty.
Massiah-Arthur said increasing the TAP award would benefit students at both private and public institutions.
“New York’s elected representatives would enable more students to attend SUNY or CUNY tuition free, while also maintaining New York’s historic commitment to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers for whom private colleges offer the best opportunity for success and economic mobility.”
The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York State. Depending on the academic year in which you begin study, an annual TAP award can be up to $5,165, according to the HOP homepage. Since TAP is a grant, it does not have to be paid back.
“The governor has invested more than $2.4 billion in private schools since 2011 – nearly the highest in the nation – and currently gives 100,000 grants to private school students to lower their college costs,” said Peters at an open press conference in response to Massiah-Arthur. “Fordham forgot to put all of that in their letter.”
However, Massiah-Arthur said that there are addition factors that go into private school budget allocation and that, in comparison, the current budget also supplies six billion dollars to public universities, according to the New York State fiscal budget.
The original budget was proposed by Cuomo’s team in January. The new budget would have been put into effect on April 1, which marks the start of the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The proposed budget’s approval has since been postponed.