From NYS Senator Liz Krueger
How The State Creates Opportunity
In recent years, the dream of getting a college degree has come under assault for many young New Yorkers.
Complex applications and testing requirements; public vs. private; rising tuition and other costs; and applying for loans, grants, and scholarships can intimidate even the most knowledgeable of students. Just imagine how scary this must be for a 17-year-old who believes they or their family cannot afford college—who might be the first person in their family to even consider going. Believing that college is not a possibility has caused too many young people to turn their backs on higher education, leaving them under-educated and under-qualified, yet still trying to compete in our high-tech global economy.
Creating the opportunity for upward socio-economic mobility is an achievable goal for government. In fact, we already have programs in place that target those students who may not see a college degree in their future; programs that provide the personal support, and financial and academic tools to not just get into college, but succeed once there. These “opportunity programs” are best known as EOP, HEOP, C-STEP, SEEK, and College Discovery. Some are more than 40 years old; some have helped hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers rise out of poverty; all help students get into college who wouldn’t normally because of financial and/or academic hurdles.
All have also cost very little to the State in comparison to the tremendous long-term financial and social benefits recouped annually. For example, the State invests $25 million in EOP each year—a fraction of the $135 gained in annual taxes from graduates who, thanks to their degree, remain in New York, end up with higher paying jobs in their field of interest, and pay taxes in a higher bracket.
Despite the clear benefits for everyone involved, these programs have not had the financial or public support they deserve. The vast majority of New Yorkers, particularly those most in need of their services, do not know they exist. Thankfully, Governor Spitzer included funding increases in this year’s budget! Under the previous Governor, each year huge cuts were proposed leaving supporters scrambling to stop devastating cuts instead of focusing on program expansion and outreach.
This summer my office worked with each of these programs and the State Education Department, and developed the very first comprehensive booklet that provides students, parents, and educators access to information that helps low-income young people go to college and accomplish their dreams.
Free copies of Yes! You Can Go to College: Financial Aid & Academic Support Programs for Low-income New Yorkers can be obtained on my website, www.lizkrueger.com, or by calling my office at 212-490-9535.
In government, sometimes we get it wrong, but other times we couldn’t get it any more right. Higher education opportunity programs should not just be expanded, but should serve as a reminder, and a model, of how the State can positively affect peoples lives, and responsibly invest tax dollars in a way that leads to a better society.#