On April 6, the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo finalized the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). Negotiations for this year’s state budget were unlike any other — between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the scandals facing Gov. Cuomo, and a new federal administration that delivered billions of aid to New York.
What does the $212-billion state budget mean for the next generation of New Yorkers? Young Invincibles took a closer look to see how young people fared in this year’s budget:
- No tuition hikes at New York’s public colleges for three years: In January, the Governor proposed a tuition increase at CUNY and SUNY for the academic year 2021-2022. The Legislature rejected that proposal, and the enacted FY22 budget includes a three-year tuition freeze for CUNY and SUNY students.
- A $500 increase to TAP. The state’s FY22 budget increases the maximum award for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) by $500, raising the maximum TAP award from $5,165 to $5,665. However, a considerable gap remains between the cost of tuition at New York’s public colleges and the maximum TAP award: annual tuition at CUNY is $1,265 higher than the new maximum TAP award. At SUNY, the gap between tuition and maximum TAP is $1,405 each year. The FY22 budget makes a commitment to close the so-called “TAP gap” over the next four years — but did not guarantee the funding needed to fully eliminate the gap.
- State funding for CUNY ASAP is restored: The Governor’s proposed budget also included a $2.5 million cut for CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). The enacted budget restores the state’s funding for CUNY’s signature free-college program that provides students with not only free tuition, but also a monthly MetroCard, increased access to academic counseling, and funding for textbooks. Research has consistently shown that enrollment in CUNY ASAP doubles graduation rates.
- State funding for campus childcare at public colleges is restored: One in five college students are parents — yet nationwide, on-campus childcare does not match the needs of student parents. The final budget rejected proposed cuts to campus childcare programs at CUNY and SUNY, and provides $1.7 million for CUNY campus child care, and $2.1 million for SUNY.
- Funding for the state’s Opportunity Programs is increased: New York’s Opportunity Programs provide financial aid and academic support for eligible students, as well as help with paying for non-tuition costs, like textbooks. The FY22 budget provided an additional $30 million to increase funding for Opportunity Programs such as SEEK, HEOP, EOP, and College Discovery.
- A new investment in campus mental health care at CUNY and SUNY: The final budget includes an increase in funding for much-needed campus mental health services at New York’s public colleges. Both CUNY and SUNY received $1 million each for campus mental health care, including teletherapy.
- No financial aid penalties for students who had to leave college due to COVID-19: The FY22 budget also includes language protecting students who’ve had to leave college due to COVID-19. If a student’s semester is disrupted due to COVID-19, state law now says that semester won’t count towards their lifetime limit for state financial aid.
- Full funding of Foundation Aid: This year’s budget also provides full funding of Foundation Aid, the main mechanism New York State uses to pay for public K-12 education. For a decade, the state has not used its own funding formula to provide money to schools, meaning high-need schools districts have not gotten the full funding they are entitled to under state law. This year’s budget will mean that these high-need districts are fully funded — creating the possibility for improved career and college preparation services in K-12 schools.
- Ending tax breaks for wealthy New Yorkers to support public programs: The final state budget included a progressive income tax on New Yorkers making more than $1 million annually, and increased taxes on big corporations from 6.5 percent to 7.25 percent. New York’s income inequality is the highest in the country, and the racial wealth gap for younger generations continues to increase. The new wealth taxes are expected to bring $4.3 billion in revenue to the state.
While grassroots advocacy helped secure major wins for the state’s young people, the fight continues to support the next generation. Here are a few key issues that did not get resolved in the FY22 budget:
- A down payment for the New Deal for CUNY: For decades, New York has disinvested in the nation’s largest urban public university system, pushing costs onto CUNY’s students while cutting critical services. The New Deal for CUNY will reverse this disinvestment by making CUNY tuition-free again, increasing full-time faculty and mental health counselors on campus, and making critical investments in campus buildings. Students and advocates urged a down payment for the New Deal for CUNY in this year’s budget, but ultimately that was not included in the final state budget.
- Increasing protections for New York’s student borrowers: While the Biden administration considers student debt cancellation, we know that many of New York’s student borrowers have debts that won’t be covered by the proposed cancellation. This includes debts owed directly to colleges, which can prevent students from accessing their transcripts to re-enroll in college, apply for graduate school, or apply for jobs that require a transcript. New York can end the transcript trap by passing Senate Bill 5924.
- Expanding health care for undocumented New Yorkers: Immigrant New Yorkers have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking exposure to keep New York running. Yet, as many as 400,000 undocumented New Yorkers are prevented from accessing health care coverage in New York — including many young people. Advocates pushed the state to fund a temporary state-funded Essential Plan for New Yorkers up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level who have had COVID-19, and are currently excluded from coverage because of their immigration status. This program, however, was ultimately not included in the final budget.
- Stopping abusive medical debt in New York: Ballooning medical debt contributes to the instability New Yorkers are facing, harming both those with health insurance and those without. Advocates pushed the state to include protections against harmful debt collection practices, including requiring clear hospital bills, capping interest on medical debt to three percent, and protect consumers from surprise out-of-network bills. These protections were also not included in the state budget.