The presidents of the state’s private for-profit colleges were in Albany Tuesday pushing lawmakers to support legislation that would extend tuition assistance to their students. The degree-granting colleges serve nearly 40,000 students statewide.
We’ve all heard about the state's new Excelsior scholarship program where students can attend a two or four-year SUNY school full-time tuition free if their household income is $125,000 or less. Also in the state budget was an Enhanced Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, for private, not-for profit institutions like Syraucuse University or Le Moyne College. But President and CEO of the Association of Proprietary Colleges Donna Gurnett says somehow, schools like Bryant and Stratton and about a dozen others were unintentionally left out.
"This is the first time they've actually segregated one sector of students out from the other three sectors. We find that a little odd. We think it was just a drafting error because our programs are held to the same standards as any other programs and any other schools in New York State."
Gurnett says their schools do a good job of getting mostly low-income, first generation college students through graduation on-time and with low debt. She says they also have an 85 percent job placement rating after graduation.
"Students should be able to choose what school they go do, and they shouldn't be penalized with their financial aid simply because they've chosen to go to a school that is a better fit for them."
Gurnett says the private for-profit sector has done its part to keep classes affordable and accessible. She says member colleges have either held tuition flat, decreased tuition, or increased it slightly by 1 or 1.5 percent…that’s unheard of in any other sector. Gurnett says they’ve also provided $95 million in institutional aid. She says bills in the assembly and senate to correct the tuition assistance oversight have a growing number of sponsors, and should put all institutions on a level playing field.
"We've always been treated very fairly, very equitably, whether it's the state education department, or with our legislators, or with the board of regents," Gurnett said. "Here in New York, we have this long standing history tradition of treating all four sectors equally, and it's created this robust and diverse education system which has worked well for all New Yorkers."
Gurnett hopes lawmakers act on the measures before session wraps up in mid-June.