Fordham Urges Students to Get Involved in Upcoming State Budget Decisions


Published: February 12, 2009

The fiscal crisis that has descended upon the world poses threats not only to those employed by banks, insurance agencies and automotive companies, but also to students seeking college degrees. New York, like the rest of the nation, has experienced dramatic cuts in its budget for higher education. Gov. David Paterson has outlined a plan called New York Higher Education Loan Program (NYHELPs), which will be voted on in the coming weeks, to help alleviate the economic strain such budget cuts have placed on students. Lesley Massiah, assistant vice president of government relations at Fordham, said students can impact budget decisions if they make themselves heard.

In the face of the $75 million cuts to financial aid in the upcoming year’s budget, this plan is designed to provide loans to students at “competitively low prices,” according to information provided by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation. New York state will make an initial contribution of $50 million, followed by annual $10 million donations to sustain the program.  Students enrolled in two-year colleges will thus be eligible for up to $20,000 in loans, those in four-year institutions up to $50,000, and those pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees can receive up to $70,000 to help finance their studies, according to the New York Times.

Bridget Cahalan, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’12, said, “Without the tuition assistance I am receiving, attending Fordham, or any institution for that matter, would simply not be feasible.”

Approximately 90 percent of Fordham’s attendees benefit from programs such as HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) which will experience $1 million in cuts, TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) which will be cut by $61 million, and Bundy Aid, which will be cut by $2.7 million, said Bob Howe, director of communications at Fordham. Massiah said she believes that any further cuts to education could be quite detrimental to students, and thus she urges them to make their voices heard.

NYHELPs is not a plan to reverse the budget cuts, but it proposes alternative solutions to those seeking higher education. Thomas Dunne, vice president of government relations and urban affairs at Fordham, said, “Governor Paterson has always been a proponent of higher education.” Dunne said he feels sure that these cuts, “while necessary given the current market conditions, must be quite painful for him.” Dunne also said that he believes the proposed plan is a prudent one.

Peter Stace, vice president for enrollment at Fordham, said he believes that “the availability of low-interest loans can only be helpful in this time of tight credit.”

Rebecca Decker, FCLC ’12, said, “While the cuts don’t affect me so much now, I want to pursue a career in education.” Decker said that she hopes it will not become more difficult to get jobs as an educator after she graduates as a result of the recession.

Hayden Hartnett, FCLC ’12, said, “Despite the unfortunate circumstances our world is facing, [it seems like] Paterson is doing his best to ensure that students, and the generation that will be soon be leading the nation, are not too dramatically affected.”

Dunne and his colleagues said that they do worry, however, that when the budget is reviewed by the legislature in upcoming weeks, that additional cuts will be made.

To avoid this, Dunne said that it is up to the community to band together and voice their opinion. He suggested that students write letters and emails to the state legislature and join the Facebook and Twitter groups of student alliances in order to make their voices heard.

“The generation of students today is the generation that defied political logic by voting and getting involved,” said Massiah. “So why stop here? [Students should] be as interested in the present as in the future.”