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GOP Assembly says its plan would cut college costs, loans

ALBANY - Assembly Republicans say they have a plan to provide less expensive college educations with lower student debt for far more New Yorkers than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarships.

The proposal released Monday counters Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarships “tuition-free” program that would provide additional student aid for families making up to $100,000 or up to $125,000 beginning in 2019. Cuomo’s proposal, a centerpiece of his 2017-18 budget proposal, would cost $163 million a year.

“This is not the time to consider segmented solutions that focus on only a fraction of the problem,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua). “We need to overhaul the state’s outdated TAP program and make aid available to young people struggling under crushing student loan debt.”

Cuomo had estimated as many as 200,000 students might benefit, although estimates from the State University of New York were as low as 80,000.

Kolb said the Assembly Republicans’ Affordable College for All Initiative would help hundreds of thousands of college students and graduates paying student loans. Kolb’s spokesman said the Affordable College for All Initiative cost would be $398 million a year when fully implemented. The state budget totals $162 billion.

The GOP plan would rely on established funding streams such as the Tuition Assistance Program, but raise the household income threshold for eligibility to $125,000, from $80,000; increase every TAP award by $500; and restore graduate students to be among those who are eligible for TAP, among other changes.

The Republican Assembly members said Monday that Cuomo’s plan won’t help students already in college, doesn’t help former students pay back loans and requires students to take 15 credits to be eligible, while TAP requires a “more reasonable” 12 credits to account for working families.

The Republicans also oppose Cuomo’s Excelsior plan, which they say would provide aid for students who came to the United States without proper immigration documentation over graduate students.

Cuomo had no immediate comment.

Under Albany’s rules, Assembly Republicans, like the Senate’s Democratic minority, aren’t included in closed-door budget negotiations between Cuomo and legislative leaders from the Assembly’s Democratic majority and the Senate’s Republican majority. But the Assembly GOP has tried to use public pressure that sometimes results in their bills being carried in different forms by the Democratic majority.

There was no immediate comment from the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

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