Part-Time TAP Should Include Students at Proprietary Colleges

By Donna Stelling Gurnett | March 30, 2022

This year the New York State Legislature has a chance to change the lives of thousands of very deserving college students. Our elected representatives are currently considering changing the rules around the tuition assistance program (TAP) as it relates to part-time students. While TAP for part-time students has been on the books since 2007, the rules for accessing it were so restrictive that few students were able to use it. Additionally, it was only available to students attending CUNY, SUNY, and private non-profit colleges; it excluded students attending proprietary institutions. That is why the Association of Proprietary Colleges (APC) is calling on the Legislature to right this wrong by including our part-time students and allowing them to access TAP.

In her Executive Budget, Governor Hochul proposed eliminating some of the roadblocks to accessing TAP as a part-time student. We were pleased to see the Governor acknowledge the changing trends in higher education, which the COVID pandemic exacerbated.

However, even before the pandemic, the traditional path of going on to college full-time, immediately after high school was beginning to change, particularly for first-generation college students. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show 48% of first-generation students attended college part-time, compared to 38% of students whose parents had at least a bachelor’s degree. These are the students who need the greatest help and part-time TAP would make a meaningful difference in their lives.

Many students pursuing a college degree in 2022 are older, having to balance a variety of life circumstances including raising families, caring for older relatives, and working while going to school.

According to a 2021 report by the Education Data Initiative, 39.1% of all students are enrolled part-time. In 2019, that number was 26%, which means that even before the pandemic, 1 in 4 students enrolled in college were going part-time.

Clearly, the pandemic has had a significant impact on full-time vs part-time enrollment, and it remains unclear if numbers will return to 2019 levels as we transition into a more stabilized COVID environment.

We greatly appreciate the Governor and Legislature’s leadership on this issue. They have proposed raising the maximum TAP award for the second year in a row and increasing the income threshold for the first time in 22 years. Those two important steps will benefit all lower income college students in New York.

Further, fixing the issues with the part-time TAP program is also a significant step toward acknowledging how the world is changing and helping the people who need financial assistance the most.

Now we are asking them to take one more step and include students attending proprietary colleges in the part-time TAP program. From a budgetary point of view, it would add $5.5 million to the $150 million price tag, but it would make an unquantifiable difference to the 2800 students attending proprietary colleges who would benefit from it.

Every student in New York State deserves the right to pursue a better life through education and should not be punished simply because they are in school part-time. Please extend part-time TAP to students attending proprietary colleges.

Donna Stelling Gurnett is President and CEO, APC Colleges