Republican state lawmakers Monday laid out an alternative to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to make public college tuition free for students from families making $125,000 or less, focusing on an existing aid program that supports students at both public and private schools and making student loans tax deductible.
The Republican plan -- supported by Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, among others -- would increase the income threshold from $80,000 to $125,000 for the state's existing billion dollar tuition-assistance program, TAP. It increases the maximum TAP award to $6,470 -- an increase of $1,300 -- boosts all TAP awards by $500 and expands the assistance program to graduate students. The proposal also calls for an income tax deduction for student loan payments.
"We've heard so much about providing free college to illegal immigrants, but not enough about the dreams of residents in our community and the struggle they face in paying for higher education," Lopez said in a statement, referring to Democratic proposals to expand tuition assistance to undocumented students.
The lawmakers said the plan would cost roughly what Cuomo's plan is expected to cost -- around $164 million -- but would assist more families and students. Unlike Cuomo's plan, which would concentrate extra tuition assistance at state colleges and universities, by boosting the TAP thresholds, the Republican proposal would also make extra funding available to New York students at private New York colleges.
Officials at private colleges across the region expressed concern that Cuomo's proposal could leave them out of the expanded student aid -- or even cut into existing levels of tuition support provided to students at private schools. Some suggested that the tuition-free proposal placed them at a competitive disadvantage or misled students about the overall costs of college.
"There are thousands of families that make too much to qualify for TAP but nowhere near enough to pay for college out of pocket," Walsh said in a statement. "We can't overlook these families like the governor is proposing."
The proposals were still being worked into legislative language as of Monday evening.