*This page is a transcription of one section of the 2019-20 SUNY Student Assembly Advocacy Agenda. For a full directory, and more information on our advocacy, please be directed to the Advocacy page.*
The 2019-20 Advocacy Agenda
Increasing the Affordability and Accessibility of SUNY
Stopping the Rise of Tuition and Fees
Tuition has increased dramatically system-wide since the 2008 financial crisis. The Student Assembly President routinely votes against tuition increases, but due to flat state support and increases in operating expenses, the SUNY Board regularly votes to raise tuition by the maximum allowable amount. The Student Assembly urges the state to appropriate funding to the state to offset the need for any increases in tuition or fees.
Funding for Critical Maintenance and New Capital Projects
The Student Assembly supports a $1.2 billion investment in SUNY infrastructure, to support critical maintenance needs on existing buildings, and the construction of new facilities. The current level of funding provided by the state for capital does not allow campuses to even keep up with scheduled repairs, let alone invest in expansion. Capital neglect can lead to unsafe conditions for students, faculty, and staff, and to buildings being taken off line from use. Additional support for capital would also allow campuses to make serious investments in the sustainability of their infrastructure.
Increase State Support for Students with Disabilities
SUNY serves 43% of self-identified college students with disabilities attending postsecondary institutions in New York State. More than half of those students attend SUNY community colleges, where the disability services centers do not receive a consistent stream of state support. The Student Assembly urges the state to appropriate$5.7 million dollars for disability services system-wide to effectively support students with disabilities across the SUNY System.
The New York State Education Department, on behalf of the Department’s Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities, recommends that New York State provide $15 million in funding for providing services to students with disabilities, and that SUNY’s share of that funding be $5.7 million, proportionate to the percentage of students with disabilities that the system serves. Such increased funding will allow campuses to provide wraparound services that include but are not limited to:
Supports and accommodations for students with disabilities
Summer college preparation programs to ease the transition to campus and help students with disabilities navigate facilities and systems
Providing full-time and part-time faculty and staff with disability training
Improved identification processes for individuals with disabilities and data collection services.
Reinstate TAP and Pell Grants for Justice-Involved Students
Prior to the 1990s, justice-involved students were eligible for federal pell grants and state TAP awards. This eligibility was eliminated, in practice dramatically cutting support for college in the prison programs. Since the cancellation of TAP for such students for example, there has been a 79% reduction in college programs for incarcerated individuals in New York State. Given the reduced rates of recidivism and public dependence associated with graduates of college prison programs, we urge the federal and state governments to reinstate eligibility for key financial aid programs to justice-involved students.
We firmly support reinstating Pell Grants for justice-involved students for a number of reasons. Prior to 1994, incarcerated individuals were able to access federal financial aid to access higher education while imprisoned. However, in 1994, a ban was placed on inmates trying to access Pell Grant awards. A relic of the “tough on crime” era of the 1990s, this ban is still in place today, and negatively affects America’s more than two million prisoners. The benefits of this program are wide-ranging and well documented.
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the recidivism rate for inmates drops precipitously after receiving Pell Grants and, if implemented nationally, would lead to a $365.8 million cost-savings for states. Additionally, there is overwhelming support for criminal justice reform, with 91% of Americans believing there needs to be reform, as found by an ACLU poll. Lastly, we believe there is a unique opportunity for SUNY to take the lead rehabilitating prisoners as, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, over 30 colleges and universities in New York provide college-in-prison programs, 12 of them being SUNY schools.
There are several pieces of legislation that policymakers can support in order to reinstate Pell Grants for justice-involved students. While we believe that the best way forward is including Pell Grants for justice-involved students in a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, other bills create the same benefits. S.1074 and H.R.2168 - Restoring Education And Learning Act of 2019 (the REAL ACT) are both examples of bills that we support.
State Support for UUP Contract
The Student Assembly calls on the state to fully cover the increased collective bargaining costs associated with United University Professions current contract. This would mean covering the remaining year of retroactive raises, and all future increases associated with the contract. While SUNY students support fair compensation for faculty and staff, students should not have to foot the bill.
Close the TAP Gap
The State of New York must close the TAP Gap, which is directly causing a dramatic loss of revenue for our campuses. Filling the gap, which is expected to rise above $75 million this year, would help offset the need for increases in tuition and fees, and allow campuses to invest in academic programs and student support services. It would also prevent campuses from being penalized for accepting low-income students.
The TAP Gap, as it is widely known, is the difference between the TAP award and the actual cost of tuition. According to a SUNY administered report, the average annual tuition at a SUNY school averages to $6,870, the TAP award provides up to $5,165, creating a $1,870 difference for each TAP student. This equates to a $70 million dollar shortfall that SUNY campuses are required to close through their operating budgets.The Student Assembly urges the legislature to close the TAP Gap by reimbursing campuses for the $70 million in lost revenue for tuition credits. According to a projection, the Tap gap’s annual increase will continue to rise, equating to $2,555 for the 2021-22 school year. By closing the gap, the state would allow campuses to redirect spending towards other critical priorities, such as student support and comprehensive wraparound services.