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Today's release of Measuring Up, a biennial study of various higher education metrics, including college affordability, in the United States, contains inaccuracies regarding higher education costs in New York State. Measuring Up gave 49 states a grade of "F" for affordability, including New York. However, New York's system of public and private colleges and universities has a proven record of providing access to higher education with financial aid targeted to students based upon family income. 

New York State led the nation by granting $874M last year in annual needs based aid, the largest total state offering and the largest dollar amount per enrolled student.  Financial aid in New York State is designed to give the greatest support to students with the greatest need.  This critical fact is not reflected in the Measuring Up report.

New York State's Governor David A. Paterson, New York State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills, State University of New York Chancellor John Clark, City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Abraham Lackman, President  of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, urge the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education to change the judgment criteria for the Measuring Up report card of college affordability to reflect more accurately state support for the real costs and resources required to attend college anywhere in the nation.

"In New York State, providing access to a high-quality and affordable college education is a critical priority. Our need-based financial aid program - the Tuition Assistance Program - is the most generous in the country, and the price of tuition at our 4-year public institutions of higher education is below the national average," said Governor Paterson. "Making a college education available to as many New Yorkers as possible is of crucial importance to the future of our state. Furthermore, New York manages numerous scholarship programs and helps students secure affordable loans. The Measuring Up report should better recognize these investments."

The Measuring Up system for rating college affordability tends to give highest marks to states with the lowest in-state tuitions, without recognizing the extent to which states like New York compensate by providing aid to lower income families.  New York State offers a competitive tuition rate to all students, while providing substantial financial aid to those who need it most -- low income and poor students.   New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) covers the full cost of tuition at public two- and four-year colleges and universities for students from families in the bottom 20% of income levels.  

Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, "The Regents are focused with great intensity on getting more students to graduate from high school and go on to college. They understand that to be employable today, it is more important than ever to graduate from an institution of higher education. And New York does more than any other State to make college affordable for those at the lowest income levels. Simply put, our aid system is designed to give the greatest support to students with the greatest need."

From state to state there are significant policy differences regarding how student aid is distributed or provided for low- and high-income students.  Measuring Up bases the affordability grade on the assumption that all states distribute their total aid the same way among students with different levels of financial need attending private and public sector colleges.  Many states provide no aid to students attending community colleges. But all low-income students can receive total tuition waivers in New York State. By using national averages, Measuring Up severely underestimates the amount of aid New York provides to community college students.

"We are disappointed that the Measuring Up report methodology for calculating the cost of higher education for low income families does not sufficiently recognize New York's generous program of financial assistance to full-time students,” said City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.  "The report also fails to take into account pre-collegiate programs such as the CUNY College Now partnership with the New York City Department of Education, which provide access to free college courses at CUNY as well as skills development.  CUNY currently serves over 242,000 degree credit students and over 260,000 adult and continuing education students at our twenty-three campuses.  We are focused on delivering quality services to an expanding student body, the vast majority emanating from low income families seeking entry to the middle class through public higher education."  

"The State University of New York (SUNY) does an excellent job of meeting its mission of providing access and affordability to a high-quality education. In fact, enrollment at SUNY’s 64 campuses continues to set records," said SUNY Interim Chancellor Dr. John B. Clark. "Let me assure New Yorkers that they can take pride in a system of public higher education that is among the very best in the nation."

Measuring Up assumes students in New York State two-year colleges pay the same living costs that students in residence at four-year colleges pay.  That is not correct. In fact, we know that over half of New York State community college students live at home with significantly lower room and board expenses.  Students go to New York community colleges because they can live at home and save money.  Yet Measuring Up figures the cost of community college to include four-year college living costs.                                                       

Further, because Measuring Up compares total aid awarded against a state's total number of college students, New York is penalized by the 150,000 out-of-state and foreign students who attend its outstanding private colleges without eligibility for state aid. Twenty percent of New York State's students come from out of state, compared to only ten percent for California. 

"A category-of-one partnership between the 100+ private, not-for-profit colleges and universities and SUNY and CUNY collectively educates 1.2 million students annually," said Abraham M. Lackman, president of the Albany-based Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU).  "Access is at the heart of the Independent Sector's story. CICU's member campuses enroll more than 464,000 students, including 290,000 New York State residents. One in three (33%) New Yorkers enrolled full time at independent colleges and universities in the state comes from a family earning less than $40,000 annually. We are proud of the programs New York State has in place to make higher education accessible to all students in all sectors."

New York has the fourth highest college participation rates in the nation among low-income high school graduates.  Measuring Up does acknowledge that New York provides the highest level of need-based aid of any state.   Last year New York granted income based aid of $1,206 per college student compared to the national average of $458.  College in New York is more affordable for poorer and low-income students than it is in any other state.

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