Nicole Malliotakis and Senator Lanza Look to Reinstate TAP, Widen Availability
By Briana DelBuono
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and State Senator, Andrew Lanza are pushing for efficient reform for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), including availability for middle class families and the reinstatement of TAP for graduate students.
A representative of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Staten Island, the assemblywoman has made getting these proposals across a priority.
The first proposal, the restoration of TAP for students seeking degrees after completing their bachelor’s degree, has been a key pivot point for Malliotakis. In an interview, the assemblywoman explained, “TAP was eliminated from all graduate students in 2010 due to budget constraints. I want to get that restored.”
Costing only 3 million a year, the restoration of the graduate TAP program would help relieve the burden of college debt that most students are saddled with in the efforts to further their education.
The assemblywoman stated that she and Senator Andrew Lanza are working side by side and is also the sponsor of her bills in the senate. “We have been advocating to try to get it in the budget, that’s the immediate effort right now,” she added.
“Back in 2010, the legislature increased the debt of the state to $13 billion and as a result, TAP programs suffered. That’s when they cut tuition assistance program for graduate students,” the assemblywoman stated.
Having a master’s degree in Business Administration from Wagner College, Assemblywoman Malliotakis knows how detrimental this retraction of TAP assistance is to citizens and students hoping to further their education who do not have the means or resources to do so.
Assemblywoman Malliotakis’ second proposal aims to increase the tuition assistance program’s eligibility so that more middle class families can qualify. TAP’s last increase was in the year 2000. It was increased from $50,000 to $80,000.
“My proposal would increase it from 80,000 to 100,000 in household income which, is very important that we do because it hasn’t been increased in 15 years; [in spite of this] the rate of tuition cost has increased since then,” she exclaimed.
“We currently have a $5 billion surplus for the state. We should be increasing the eligibility to make that threshold larger.”
In June 2014, The Economist reported that student debt surpassed $1.2 trillion. And to no avail, many universities heightened their fees by an astounding 27 percent throughout recent years.
“In my view, there are many middle class families and individuals who are struggling to pay tuition,” the assemblywoman said. “I think that by increasing the income eligibility, we would be able to help out more middle class families throughout the state.”
The DREAM Act (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors), which provides financial assistance to illegal aliens and helps them gain citizenship in the country, essentially takes away money from struggling people who are already U.S. citizens. Critics contend that this excess of money should be used for citizen students in need of financial assistance.
As a member of the opposition, the assemblywoman has been pushing back on that legislation and seeking out alternatives. “The Dream Act, would put aside 27 million dollars for tuition assistance for individual,” she said. “I believe we should assist citizens who are struggling to make ends meet to pay for higher education before those who are in the country illegally. The two of my proposals combined will cost less than the Dream Act.”
With the cost of tuition currently and frequently on the rise, Assemblywoman Malliotakis feels that this is the best way to counteract this and disperse government funds within higher education.
“The cost of college has increased dramatically and without an increase in the eligibility for tuition assistance, many people are left out of the program. This would give an opportunity for more middle class families to qualify for the assistance and would help reduce the debt burden on the students graduating,” she stated.
The assemblywoman has set up a webpage that allows citizens to sign the petition to help push forth her proposals.
“We’re trying our best to try to get it in the budget and that’s why we’re pushing people to sign the petition,” she said. Students and members of the community can search www.nicolemalliotakis.com/tap and sign today.