They want to save the American Dream.
That’s the mission of a group of local representatives who hope proposed legislation could help make higher education more affordable for future New York college students.
State Senator Jeff Klein announced a policy package with four proposals with that goal on March 7, at Fordham University.
“Education is the doorway through which one passes in order to achieve the American Dream,” said Father Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University.
He called education the “great elevator” of our society, but said it is increasingly difficult for families, especially immigrant families, to afford education for their children.
“We believed it is imperative that we all work together, families, government, and colleges and universities,” McShane said, “ To make sure that we do not make it impossible for people to go to college and to achieve the American dream for themselves and their families.”
Klein said he would introduce a four-pronged approach to college affordability during the current legislative session.
The costs of college have been steadily increasing across the country, and a year’s tuition at a college in the State University of New York currently costs about $5,870.
“We need to figure out a way that we can make college more affordable, and I think the way we can do that is by locking in a tuition rate now,” Klein said.
The first part of his program is a pre-paid tuition program, which would allow parents to purchase future tuition credits at current prices for New York State public colleges and some participating private colleges.
The second part, if passed would double the amount that parents can contribute tax-free to the states college savings plan, increasing the amount a married couple could contribute from $10,000 to $20,000. In addition, Klein also wants to double the maximum tax credit for college tuition costs to $20,000.
Lastly, Klein wants to offer college students incentives to stay in-state after graduation with the Study and Stay Tax Credit. This part of the proposed legislation would allow graduates of four-year colleges to annually deduct $5,000 from their tax liability for up to 10 years and deposit those funds into an account for a down-payment on a house.
Several Fordham students, most of them first-generation college students, spoke of the importance of college affordability to them.
Sophomore Madison Garcia said she has worked three jobs in addition to being a full-time student in order to help her family afford her education, but they still struggle with the cost and the prospect of sending her younger brother to college as well.
“What’s happening here today gives me hope,” she said. “Because maybe one day, kids wont have to look back and feel guilty for having put such a burden on their parents just so they can have a better education.”
Klein and company hope the proposed legislation will be passed as part of this year’s budget by the end of March.