BY JOE MARVILLI
Some added relief is coming for college students.
The maximum grant level for the Tuition Assistance Program has increased for the first time in 14 years. While the financial boost is a small one, going up from $5,000 to $5,165, it will offer additional relief to students attending SUNY, CUNY and not-for-profit independent degree-granting colleges.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Hillcrest) and members of the Queens College Chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group met in Rosenthal Library at Queens College to praise the increase, but also to say that more is needed.
“The increase is long overdue and we cannot wait another 14 years. As tuition increases, so should TAP,” Stavisky said. “We will benefit in the long run. Students will have an opportunity to get a better job with a college degree.”
Rozic agreed that the TAP boost was long overdue and argued that a higher increase than $165 is required to make the program continually effective.
“If we are really going to make an investment in our students, we need to be doing better. That means not just increasing TAP but making sure it is in line with today’s economy and today’s workforce,” she said. “So when a part-time student goes to college, they can also be eligible for TAP. Or if it takes you a year longer than normal, that you can also be eligible for TAP.”
Queens College president, Evangelos Gizis, welcomed the increase as well, saying that such a program is necessary in the face of increasing college costs and that many students at the college take advantage of it.
“This semester, more than 40 percent of our students receive TAP,” he said. “The students who graduate from us, in spite of the TAP they receive and in spite of the fact that many of them have part-time jobs, they still need to get some loans.”
Aileen Sheil, a student and chair of NYPIRG’s Board of Directors, was more critical of the TAP program, saying it needed to be overhauled to effectively combat student debt.
“This is great news but it was only by $165, which is very little in comparison to what it needs to be, which is $6,500, in keeping with the rising costs of tuition,” she said. “Our State officials, like those behind me, need to make serious commitments to enhancing TAP this year.”
Sheil added that TAP should help undocumented students as well, a factor that was included in the DREAM Act, which failed to pass in the State Legislature in March.
Eduardo Delgadillo, a student at Queens College, told a personal story of how the lack of TAP coverage for undocumented students affected his family. His sister was in the honors program at Hillcrest High School and wanted to go to college. Since she was not eligible for TAP, her mother had to pay the whole tuition, something she could not afford to do after one year. Delgadillo’s sister had to drop out.
“It’s very unfortunate that someone so talented does not have the opportunity to come and get an education,” he said.
Stavisky, a major proponent of the DREAM Act, agreed that undocumented students should receive TAP coverage and have the same chance to excel in college as any other student.
“A student is a student and students should be eligible to come to Queens College or any other CUNY and have the same opportunity as documented students,” she said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.