Governor proposes cuts to private college financial aid
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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed cutting a 50-year-old student aid program from this year’s budget in a move that has angered many private colleges.
Direct Institutional “Bundy” Aid was first implemented in 1968. It is distributed to institutions of higher education based on how many students they graduate — encouraging retention — and allows institutions to distribute the money for scholarships as they see fit.
“It incentivizes all of the things the state wants our campuses to be doing,” said Emily Donohue, director of communications for the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, a statewide organization of private institutions of higher education. “This is the first time in 50 years there’s been a proposal to eliminate that.”
The total cost of Bundy Aid has been $35.13 million annually since 2015, according to information posted on the CICU website. Colleges in the north country receive more than $500,000 of that, according to Ms. Donohue.
St. Lawrence University confirmed it receives about $174,000 in Bundy aid, and referred all other questions to CICU. Clarkson University receives around $320,000, according to Chief Financial Officer James D. Fish.
The governor’s office says that by ending Bundy Aid, it can move funds to the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program, which funds capital projects on campus.
“By shifting funds from Bundy Aid to HECAP, this year’s budget makes state aid more impactful for private colleges and ensures our investment gets results,” wrote Morris Peters, State Division of Budget spokesperson, in an email statement.
According to information Mr. Peters provided, HECAP requires campuses to produce three dollars for every dollar of aid, while Bundy Aid only provides 0.1 percent of revenue for colleges that receive it.
Private colleges, however, say that shifting funds is not enough.
Mr. Fish acknowledged that the Bundy Aid was only a small part of the $80 million in financial aid that Clarkson gives out every year. But losing it would still reduce financial aid by around $100 per student.
“It would impact our bottom line,” Mr. Fish said. “It’s just another nail in the coffin for private higher ed; it’s just unfortunate.”
Ms. Donohue said that HECAP funding is competitive and can only be accessed by institutions that are constructing buildings or buying equipment.
“Bundy Aid comes every year,” Ms. Donohue said. “They’re both important, but they’re just really different.”
The governor’s office has also pointed to an increase this year in funding of the Enhanced Tuition Aid, a relatively new last-dollar aid for private college students in New York state with similar restraints to the Excelsior scholarships for SUNY schools. This includes a requirement to remain in New York following graduation for as long as the student received the scholarship. ETA is also a matching grant, and has only been implemented by about 30 colleges as of last year, according to an October 2017 Politico article on the scholarship.
“Governor Cuomo will continue to work with private and public institutions to make college more affordable so that cost is never an impediment to educational opportunity,” Mr. Peters wrote. “To that end, the Budget includes nearly $23 million for the Enhanced Tuition Award, enabling more students at private colleges to complete their degree.”
That is only a slight increase over the $19 million provided for the 2017-2018 school year, and according to Ms. Donohue is to cover a planned rise in the maximum eligible family income for students applying for ETA.
In contrast to the number of schools receiving ETA aid, “Bundy Aid is something that almost every one of our over 100 campuses receives,” Ms. Donohue said.
The state Legislature will have to approve ending Bundy Aid, and CICU is working to keep it in the final budget for next year.
“We’ve relied on it for years,” Mr. Fish said. “To lose it would be unfortunate for the students.”