Groups rally at Capitol for higher education funding

Associated Press

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ALBANY — The Cuomo administration must boost funding for the state public university system so that most individual campuses don’t have to divert operational funds to close a gap in tuition assistance, student and faculty union groups said Wednesday.

Advocacy organizations from across the state held a rally at the state Capitol to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close what they say is a nearly $140 million shortfall in funding for State University and City University of New York campuses.

The Democrat has included $7.6 billion for the state’s public university system in his $175 billion budget proposal. He also wants to launch the third and final phase of the program that provides free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools for middle-class families.

The student and academic union leaders said the state hasn’t raised funding for its income-based Tuition Assistance Program while boosting tuition for the public college system over the past decade. Individual schools must cover the difference between the maximum TAP allowance for poorer students and the total cost of tuition. Advocates say that has resulted in a “TAP gap” of some $140 million, including $67.4 million for SUNY schools and another $72.7 million for CUNY schools.

Schools fill their gaps by using funds set aside form other campus programs and services, which in the end winds up hurting students, the student and academic union leaders said.

“The TAP gap is strangling SUNY and CUNY,” Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who’s the chairwoman of the Assembly higher education committee, said at the rally.

Among the SUNY system’s four university centers, the University at Buffalo had the highest TAP gap of more than $8 million during the 2017-2018 academic year, according to the State University of New York Student Assembly. Hunter College has the highest gap among CUNY schools at an estimated $8.8 million for the current academic year.

Corrine Greene, of Buffalo, a senior at Brooklyn College, and Smitha Varghese, a senior at Queens College, said campus spending cuts are felt by students on a daily basis, from bathrooms that don’t get fixed to long wait times to see a faculty adviser.

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