Gov. Pataki restructures TAP budget

Governor George Pataki’s 2004-2005 fiscal year budget proposalaims to withhold up to 35 percent Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)awards. Funds would only be released when a student graduates. Itplaces several other restrictions on the program.

If the budget is passed by the legislature many universities,both public and private will be affected to varying degrees.

During the 2002-2003 academic year 6,696 St. John’s studentsreceived TAP awards as part of $19.3 million in state aid, anincrease of $1.3 million from the previous year.

Jorge Rodriguez, assistant vice president and executive directorof financial aid, said that it’s “very premature” to determine howexactly the budget will affect students. At this point it’s all”political fluff,” he said. “Budget proposals and cuts are alwayssubject to change, and nothing can be said for sure until itactually goes into affect.”

Other universities have predicted much harsher results. “Cornellstudents receive about $5.2 million in state TAP aid,” the CornellChronicle reported in March 2003. “The proposed reduction in TAPfunding would cost CU students $1.4 million.”

St. John’s aid is awarded on the basis of need, Rodriguezexplained. “As long as you’re needy SJU, will most likely try tohelp that student.” He went

on to say that SJU will not meet the need one hundred percent,rather they will meet a percentage need based on the student’sother sources of assistance. Students are likely to lose some moneyif recommended cuts are made,” Rodriguez said.

“When the time comes, students must complain, otherwise it[change] won’t happen.”

“Clearly, students aren’t hanging around college to collect TAPchecks,” said Miriam Kramer, higher education coordinator for theNew York Public Interest Research Group. “If the Governor reallywants students to graduate on time, he should ensure adequate statesupport so that students can easily register for required classes.Cutting TAP is just a way for the Governor to defer payments. It’ssimply a fiscal gimmick.”

The size of a TAP award is determined through an income formula.Eligible undergraduate students can receive a maximum of $5000, orthe full cost of tuition, whichever is lower. Students with familyincomes of over $80,000 are ineligible for an award.

In fiscal 1996-1997, the Pataki administration recommended thatstudents be required to maintain a “C” average or above after thecompletion of two academic years in order to receive continuedassistance under TAP. The legislature enacted the change, makingTAP aid no longer based solely on financial need.

Pataki has also proposed a five-percent cut in the budgets ofother higher education programs including the Higher EducationOpportunity Program and the Education Opportunity Program.

“College students are the future of New York,” said Joel Kelsey,NYPIRG’s Chairperson and a student at SUNY New Paltz. “It onlymakes sense to fully fund financial aid and essential campusprograms, programs that provide access to an affordable and qualityhigher education.”

The 2004-2005 budget proposal totals $99.8 billion, $1.5 billionmore than the current fiscal year. It also projects a $5.1 billionrevenue shortfall. A revenue gap of $6.7 billion is projected forfiscal 2005-2006 and $7.8 billion in fiscal 2006-2007, to bereduced to $2.8 billion and $4.3 billion respectively if theexecutive budget is adopted.