NYS Higher Education Services: availability of tuition assistance funds uncertain beyond fall semester

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- State Assembly members and education officials gathered Tuesday to discuss how the state’s financial woes could affect tuition assistance programs. New York State Higher Education Services (HESC) told state Assembly members that while Fall 2020 semester tuition assistance programs like the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and Excelsior Scholarship were unaffected for approved recipients, awards for the Spring 2021 semester are undetermined.

HESC told News10 new applications were on hold for the Excelsior Scholarship at the end of July. At that time the Division of the Budget said students might see a reduction in their awards.

Priority for the spring semester will be given to students already receiving awards in accordance with state tuition assistance legislation, says HESC Executive Vice President, Elsa Magee. She says HESC is currently focused on processing fall semester awards and is awaiting guidance from the state before looking ahead to the spring semester.

Like all state agencies, Magee says HESC is waiting to hear from the state what a decrease in New York’s revenue will mean for the financial future of tuition assistance programs. She says she knows much of the decision will be determined according to how much federal assistance the state will get.

Students who have already received TAP for eight semesters are not eligible for the program making those who had a COVID-19 related issue that forced them to sign up for additional courses or another semester will not be eligible.

Both the state and the federal governments have put rules forth to help people with student loans that may have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. These include the deferment of federal student loans through January 1, 2021, no accounts being sent to collections, and zero percent interest. New York has also temporarily stopped sending loans to collections.

The New York State Education Department says the future of opportunity programs such as the Science and Technology Entry Program and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Programs which help support underserved or poor students, is also in jeopardy from state budget cuts due to loss of revenue.

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