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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

College Officials, Students Head to Albany

February 9, 2009

By Allissa Kline

Representatives from 11 Western New York colleges and universities are set to descend on Albany Tuesday as part of Student Lobby Day, an annual event during which students from across the state meet with lawmakers to address student aid cuts.

Students and administrators plan to meet with lawmakers to talk about state-supported, higher-education funding sources and to show support for the proposed New York Higher Education Loan Program, which would make low-cost loans available to students.

Jason Enser, director of student activities at Hilbert College, left for Albany Monday afternoon with four Hilbert students. He said this year’s trip is essential given the potential impact that the state budget crisis could have on higher education.

“I think this year, more than any other year, is really critical because of all the cuts the governor has proposed,” Enser said.

Gov. David Paterson’s executive budget proposal for the 2009-10 fiscal year currently includes a $610 tuition increase for all State University of New York students and a decrease in SUNY base aid, both meant to alleviate the budget gap. Other changes could come for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, which could go to fewer students under a proposed 15-credit hour minimum. Under federal guidelines, “full time” is considered to be 12 credit hours.

Student Lobby Day is sponsored by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities. Abe Lackman, president of CICU, said the current economic turmoil means that student aid is more essential than ever.

“When the economy was stronger, more families did not have to rely on financial aid,” he said. “The applications for financial aid have increased pretty sharply in the last 12 months because of the weak economy.”

Enser and the Hilbert students plan to meet with state Assemblymen Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, and William Parment, D-Jamestown, along with state Sen. William Stachowski, D-Buffalo.

“I’m sure they’re going to be talking about cuts to TAP,” Enser said. “And I think there’s a challenge across the board, both at public and private (institutions), with students not able to get loans as easily as they used to. It’s critical that our students are able to attend our institution.”

Other local schools on the list to attend Student Lobby Day include Buffalo State College, Canisius College, Daemen College, D’Youville College, Houghton College, Niagara University, St. Bonaventure University, Trocaire College, University at Buffalo and Villa Maria College.

Statewide, more than 80 colleges and universities have registered for the event. CICU expects more than 1,000 students to attend.

Also Tuesday, the SUNY board is scheduled to meet and the body is expected to formally nominate Nancy Zimpher to become the next chancellor. Zimpher is currently the president of the University of Cincinnati.

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