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Supporting Part-time Students: UFS Student Affairs Committee Position Paper

posted Apr 12, 2017, 2:59 PM by Emily Tai   [ updated May 2, 2017, 5:20 PM by CUNY UFS ]
By Bill Crain, Laroi M. Lawton, and James McElwaine


Since 2007, one of every three CUNY students has been enrolled as a part-time student. Part-time students now account for 35.1 percent of those enrolled at CUNY community and senior colleges. In 2013, the Governor and Legislature increased the maximum award under TAP, unchanged since 2001.

The increase provided a small but critical benefit to low-income students attending either CUNY or SUNY, but that increase failed to provide any significant increase to our students who could attend only part-time.

TAP (Tuition Assistance Plan)

In the same year as the last TAP increase, 2013, only 1 percent of the nearly 150,000 part-time students enrolled at the state's 36 community colleges – 30 campuses in SUNY and 6 in CUNY – received financial aid through PTAP, the Part-time Tuition Assistance Plan. At CUNY community colleges, the number of part-time students who also received TAP was significantly smaller – just 91 out of nearly 40,000 part-time students, or two-hundredths of one percent, received TAP funds that year.

New York is one of only 14 states to sharply limit part-time students' access to TAP. It requires that students be enrolled full-time for two consecutive semesters before they can enroll part-time and still qualify for TAP. And once they meet these requirements, community college students are eligible only for a total of six semesters of TAP.

APTS (Aid for Part-Time Study)

APTS is a grant specifically for part-time study. It subsidizes tuition costs on a per credit-hour basis. APTS data for financial aid to part-time students are less detailed than other CUNY data. Since 2007, CUNY and SUNY tuitions have risen substantially. In 2007, part-time tuition at all SUNY campuses equaled $170 per credit. In 2017, the per-credit cost at senior colleges is now $275, a 62% increase. The per-credit costs at CUNY community colleges have been ameliorated by additional funding. $170 per credit at community colleges in 2007 has now become $210 per credit.

During that time, APTS awards have remained substantially the same, even decreasing nominally in value compared to earlier years when allowing for inflation. The APTS window still remains “between $15 and $65 per credit hour” just as it was in 2007.

This stationary award rate has become equivalent to a regressive tax by establishing a growing disproportion between TAP and APTS. As CUNY tuition continues to increase, while part-time awards do not, the less financially prepared part-time students must now confront a disproportionately greater personal tuition burden compared to their full-time peers.

Maintenance of Effort

As CUNY has tried to increase TAP and APTS, it has had to resort to another regressive taxation. Senior colleges are held responsible to the TAP gap, the difference between relatively stable TAP awards as the tuition at all CUNY campuses continues to increase. New York State and New York City have not helped with this gap with any formal Maintenance of Effort agreement. Instead, CUNY central has passed along the TAP gap to the senior colleges as another regressive tax, usually a 2% to 3% reduction of the senior college operating shares in the annual budget, called Tuition Waiver Credits in the budgets passed after the Governor and Legislature refused to provide Maintenance of Effort amelioration.

Change

The Student Affairs Committee supports this needed change for our part-time students. The first actions must come from the University Faculty Senate, and its local campus counterparts. As you read this, you are holding a potential summons to change. Next, the Legislature and the Governor of New York need to take substantive action to address regressive policies in TAP, PTAP and APTS. In order to do that, our campuses’ leaders need to explore better university alternatives to the TAP gap, other than the current Tuition Waiver Credits regressive tax at the senior colleges. This will involve the concerted efforts of faculty, students, and administration, as well as many shared governance budget mechanisms, in an attempt to empower similar reconstructive efforts by our elected city and state representatives.

Conclusion

As the collective voice of the CUNY faculty, we have to ask ourselves a difficult question: “How can we improve the current graduation rate and academic success of our part-time students?”

Part-time students often demonstrate great persistence and an intense desire for an education. Many go to classes and study while managing work and family obligations. In our faculty experience, many part-time students are older students whose interest in learning is not confined to tests and grades. They are intellectually curious and often pursue ideas for their own sake. For this reason, they provide a valuable model for many full-time students. Part-time students bring with them a set of life-experience and values that significantly contribute to in-class and on-line discussions.

We should avoid increasing the hardships caused by a ten-year series of tuition increases, lack of Maintenance of Effort (MOE), and regressive solutions that have had a greater impact on part-time students.

One immediate, no-cost option exists: eliminate the two-semester full-time-study TAP eligibility requirement for all part-time students.

Bill Crain is a Professor of Psychology at City College; LaRoi M. Lawton is the Coordinator of Learning Services and Deputy Chief Librarian at Bronx Community College; James W. McElwaine is a professor of Music at Queens College, and current Chair of the UFS Committee on Student Affairs. This position paper was adopted by the Student Affairs Committee on March 28, 2017.

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