This year, thousands of students will achieve the dream of a college education with help from New York State's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Next year, however, they might not be so lucky.

As educators, we are currently fighting a New York State Executive Budget proposal that would increase the full-time status for TAP eligibility from the current and federally accepted 12 credits a semester to 15. If approved, it will mean many New Yorkers striving to earn an education, including struggling single parents who work full time, recent high school graduates, and countless others will have to take another course each semester to qualify for the full TAP award.

The Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) makes it possible for thousands of New Yorkers to afford college, including over 840 Briarcliffe College students who benefit from the TAP program. Once these students graduate, they are able to get good jobs here in New York and become productive, taxpaying members of their communities. I'm writing to urge New Yorkers to tell Albany lawmakers to protect the state's Tuition Assistance Program. Now is the time to get involved! _Students would lose 20 percent of their TAP award if they were only able to take 12 credits. For many, this may mean the difference between attending college full time and not attending at all. _The measure also will impact needier students already facing economic hardships, as well as working mothers, students attending evening or weekend classes, and students transitioning to their first year of college. At the very least, most students will have to rely more heavily on student loans to make it to graduation day, meaning they will leave college with more debt than they had anticipated. We believe the governor's goal is to support New York college students, especially during this time of economic instability. Yet, the 2009-10 budget proposal places a barrier to this goal. Changing the status of a full-time student to 15 credits is counter-productive to the larger goal, which is to educate more New Yorkers. During this time of fiscal uncertainty, TAP is more important than ever because it helps keep the door to higher education open. Please help New York maintain TAP and help students succeed by asking Albany lawmakers to reject the governor's proposal.

Dr. George Santiago


Briarcliffe College

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