New York lawmakers are pushing for more higher education funding in the final enacted state budget.

While Gov. Kathy Hochul’s excutive budget includes significant funding, those lawmakers are hoping to go further, making changes to the Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, which helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York state.

They want to see the income eligibility threshold raised to at least $125,000 for dependent students. Both the state Senate and Assembly one-house budgets propose variations of the proposal.

Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Pat Fahy has made increasing funding for TAP central to her legislative priorities this session.

Called the Turn on the Tap campaign, she argued a recent national study by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities paints a stark picture of TAP in New York state.

“We know from national data, 70% of students are telling us cost is a major factor in why they are hesitating to go on in higher education,” she said. “There’s been about an 18% loss in terms of New York providing tuition assistance when multiple other states, California, Massachusetts, even Florida are investing more."

She said that stems from years of disinvestment, with the income threshold stagnant at $80,000 since 2000, and it comes amid concerns about enrollment rates across the nation and at a time when skilled workers are badly needed across New York state.

“We need them in our hospitals, we need them in our research facilities, we need them to support Micron, the single largest investment ever upstate,” she said.

Republican state Sen. Dean Murray, who is on the Senate Higher Education Committee, expressed concerns about education funding across the board in the budget, including when it comes to school Foundation Aid, but said he hopes the delayed budget means these things are being worked out.

“Raising the TAP things of this nature, it’s been too long. It needs to happen now,” he said. “I think having education be one of the things that has been holding things up, it goes back to the old saying: We’d rather have a good budget that’s a little late than a bad budget that’s on time.”

Spectrum News 1 reached out to SUNY to see if we could get an idea of where they stand on what has been proposed. They expressed the importance of the state investing in the system:

“We applaud Governor Hochul and the legislature for prioritizing investments that show a clear commitment to enable SUNY to deliver an excellent and affordable education for all New Yorkers,” SUNY told Spectrum News 1 in a statement. “SUNY is grateful for historic levels of operating and capital support included in recent state budgets. We recognize the importance of an affordable higher education opportunity that TAP provides for many of our students—including the 52% of SUNY students who attend tuition free. We look forward to the final 2024-25 State budget.”