Advocacy: The Issues

Click here to view the Recording and Slide Deck from the 2020 NYSACAC Annual Conference Legislative Session, featuring a Keynote by NYS Senator Shelley Mayer, Chair of the Senate Education Committee
NACAC Legislative Agenda

As the voice of the college admission counseling profession, NACAC advocates for the best interests of students and members.

Learn more about each of NACAC’s policy priorities here-

2020 NYSACAC Legislative Agenda

Click here to view and download a PDF of the 2020 Legislative Agenda 

College Students Experiencing Basic Needs Insecurity

Problem: Current policies and programming do not properly address college students’ basic needs including food and housing.


  • State University of New York (SUNY) conducted a 2019 system-wide survey of 11,000+ students 

    • 54% of community college students indicated that they were hungry but did not eat because they did not have enough money for food.

    • 40% of the students from state-operated campuses indicated that they are unable to eat because they do not have enough money for food.

  • City University of New York (CUNY) conducted a 2019 survey of 22,000 undergraduates

    • 48% of CUNY students that they had experienced food insecurity that month

    • 14% had experienced homelessness while enrolled in classes 

    • 55% experienced some form of housing insecurity over the last year

  • The Federal Government Accountability Office surveyed college students and found that 36% of 4-year college students reported low or very-low food security and 67% of community college students report experiencing food insecurity

  • In 2018, Governor Cuomo announced a new initiative aimed at ensuring no college student in New York goes hungry, calling for a $1-million investment towards implementing a food pantry at each of the state’s public colleges and universities. This one-time, $1-million investment in the campus-hunger mandate is insufficient for addressing food insecurity systemically.

  • Of all college students, only 18 percent are eligible for SNAP and only 3 percent receive benefits. This means that states are losing out on $4.2 billion in federal resources that could be provided to hungry college students.

  • Most college students are not eligible for SNAP unless they work at least 20 hours per week or receive a federal work study grant. These work requirements become an additional barrier for college students to maintain their academic eligibility.

  • Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California have passed legislation allowing for full time enrollment in community college to count towards the federal work eligibility requirements. 

Next Steps:

In Governor Cuomo’s FY21 Executive Budget, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will establish policy to make more community college students eligible for essential SNAP benefits by establishing a state policy that community college students engaged at least half-time in career and technical education courses of study are exempt from the requirement to work 20 hours weekly to qualify for SNAP. This policy change will increase the participation of low-income college students in SNAP, providing them with essential nutritional benefits so they are more likely to obtain their college certification or degree. 

New York State can continue to address these issues by investing further in wraparound services for housing-insecure college students.

Talking Points:

  • Paying for basic needs is a significant barrier to completion for students across the state, and particularly for underserved students, such as students of color, parenting students, and students experiencing food insecurity or homelessness. 

  • Hunger has a significant impact on students’ mental health and productivity

  • Many students are the "benefits holder" for the family, which includes rent subsidies, food stamps, cash assistance, etc, and have to make a difficult choice of either, not leaving NYC for college, or attending a community college because of the public assistance work requirements

  • Students who had free breakfast and lunch benefits in high school suddenly have to come up with another 3,000 a year for food (even if it's dining hall food)..

  • A Nassau Community College student lost her SNAP benefits because she could no longer work 20 hours a week as she had to take care of a terminally ill parent

  • Students who have to make hard choices. Julia worked with a student in Far Rockaway who made the choice not to eat so she could buy a textbook. She lost her TAP because a course was cancelled too far into the term for her to add a course, thus ending up part-time. She was also in her last semester of college. 

  • The state legislature can also ensure that there is an updated public listing of all food pantries on each SUNY and CUNY campus.


For Profit Colleges

Problem: The challenge of student debt is disproportionately high at for-profit colleges.


  • 4% of college students in New York State attend a for-profit college, but over 40% of New Yorkers in default on their loans attended a for-profit school

  • Over a third (39%) of for-profit schools in New York leave students with less earning power than a typical high school degree-holder. Nearly half (47%) percent of students who start at New York for-profit colleges default on their loans; 3 black students default for every 4 for-profit starts. 

  • For the 2012 repayment cohort, New York’s for-profit colleges generated more student loan defaults than all of the CUNY and SUNY programs combined, even though CUNY and SUNY enrolled over 12 times as many students as for-profit colleges.

Next Steps:

For the $45 million in taxpayer funds going to these institutions, we need a higher level of accountability and transparency. New York needs much stronger protections against the abusive practices that harm our students and service members attending these programs.

Pass Enhanced Financial Disclosures from For-Profit Schools legislation.

Talking Points:

  • Admissions staff are often encouraged to provide incentives and make promises to students to enroll because they receive bonuses based on their enrollment numbers. Students are often confused by the "perks" of for profit colleges (low tuition the first semester or year, internship opportunities, etc...) But when they get there they realize many of the promises were empty. IE: A student who chose to do ASA online so she wouldn't have to pay for a metrocard and her tuition skyrocketed her second semester. 

  • As a School Counselor, I have had to tell our school safety officers not to allow the recruiters in the building because even though I emailed them and told them over the phone that I would not invite them into my school building they would still show up. 

  • My student attended an FPI for two semesters, and had to pay a fee to get an unofficial copy of her transcript when she wanted to transfer. There was no online system to access her grades, and she had to mail in her check and then wait for her transcript to be mailed back to her. And then when she transferred into CUNY, CUNY would not accept any of her credits. 

  • Students have reported being told they can start college without having to finish high school and left without a high school diploma. 


Supporting Pathways to Post-secondary Persistence

Problem: 32% of the 60,300 students who started college in 2010, graduated within 6 years. By 2025 over 60% of jobs in NY State are projected to require a college degree. College degree holders earn more than twice what students with just a high school diploma earn over their lifetime. Ultimately, socio-economic mobility, and thus wealth accrual, are highly correlated to degree attainment.


  • Access: Counselor to student ratios are alarmingly high across all of New York State. For example, Buffalo City School District in 2015-16 had 33,345 students with a 618 to 1 counselor-to-student ratio. Utica School District in 2015-16 had a 830 to 1 counselor-to-student ratio. Riverhead has an 895 to 1 counselor-to-student ratio.  

  • Accountability & Support: Opportunity programs provide academic and financial assistance to undergraduate students who may not otherwise be able to attend college.

  • Affordability: Less than half of students that begin a college degree program who are also receiving TAP funding graduate. 

  • Supporting Completion: Fewer than 1 in 5 rural adults, over the age of 25, has a college degree. Lack of data systems prohibit the field from being able to support people along their postsecondary journey- prohibiting proper intervention.

Next Steps:

  1. The Executive Budget funding proposal for programs including HEOP, STEP/C-STEP, Liberty Partnerships Program, EOP, and SEEK is not nearly adequate. We are asking that the funding be increased by 20% over 201-19 levels. Increased funding will enable these transformational programs to serve more students. 

  2. Encourage districts to prioritize using their Title IV grant dollars to support college and career counseling. On average, school counselors spend only 30 percent of their time on postsecondary admission counseling, with public school counselors spending even less. Investing Title IV, Part A grant funds in college and career counseling would enable counselors to dedicate more time toward assisting students with their college search and application processes.

  3. NYSACAC has launched a statewide project that will identify ways in which the transfer process between two-year and four-year colleges will better support student transition, persistence, and success. (The results of this work will be shared at the end of the project this summer

Talking Points:

  • Use this opportunity for students to express how subsidized tuition, extra counseling supports, and advisement through the transition to and through college supports them to get on and stay on track.


TAP & State Aid

Problem: TAP covers up to $5,165 in tuition costs for students, however no public or private four year institution in NY state’s tuition is below $5,000. TAP has not been adjusted at all since 2000 resulting in both students and colleges & universities scrounging to make up the difference.


  • New York State has charged public college students nearly $4 billion more as a result of scheduled tuition hikes at the State University of New York and City University of New York. Even when considering additional assistance provided by the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the new Excelsior Scholarship program, students have paid $2.5 billion in additional tuition.

  • The erosion of state support and the creation of growing funding gaps is translating into an erosion of student services and quality of education.

  • State aid is unavailable to students during summer and winter months, prohibiting students from earning credits during those times.

Next Steps:

  1. NYSACAC's efforts in the transfer pathways arena will identify ways to enhance student persistence and success, increasing each student's financial literacy and resulting in the optimization of TAP and other available financial aid resources.

  2. Over a three-year phase-in period, increase the minimum TAP award to $1,000 (from $500), increase the maximum TAP award to $6,500 (from $5,165), and increase the TAP income eligibility ceiling to $110,000 (from $80,000).

Talking Points:

Simplified TAP

  • TAP provides an important source of financial aid for many students statewide. However, researchers estimate that tens of thousands of students each year lose eligibility because they require more than the allowed time to complete their degrees (three years for an associate’s degree; four years for a bachelor’s degree). In comparison, the Pell Grant program has a lifetime limit of six years, and even then, more than 40 percent of students take longer than six years to graduate and lose access to Pell funding before they finish their program. Furthermore, the TAP program requires all coursework to be aligned with a student’s major. While this requirement could theoretically help students focus on their major and finish their degree on time, these course and credit requirements are often confusing to students, unclear to many academic advisors, and are subject to differing interpretations by financial aid officers and state representatives.

  • We need to modernize the TAP application - as a counselor I spend a lot of time ensuring that students complete the TAP application because… they cannot find the application link after submitting FAFSA, or the student needs to submit a signature page for their undoc parents and never receive notification, etc. 

  • Maintaining TAP is a significant issue for our students in college. Students often lose their TAP once they transfer from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree where they are often forced to retake courses. Many students report this often in the STEM fields, where core science and math classes are seen as not rigorous enough at community colleges- this is true at both CUNY, SUNY, and private schools.


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