NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Last week, four Niagara University students traveled to Albany to seek continuation of financial aid on behalf of NU. Liam Donovan, Noah Hubbel, Joi-Alexis Johnson, and Mary McCormick participated in the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities’ tenth annual Advocacy Day. This event gives independent colleges a chance to advocate for financial support of their institutions. For NU, the specific areas of support would be in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), Bundy Aid, and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP).
What benefits do students reap from each of these programs? More than they probably know. Last year, 99 percent of incoming NU students received some sort of financial aid. In 2017-18, NU received $299,595 in Bundy Aid, which adds up to about 18 undergraduate financial aid awards. HEOP is responsible for funding the NUOP program which gives equal opportunity to those who are academically underprepared and economically disadvantaged.
Financial aid has been a hot topic around New York State since the recent passage of Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship program, most commonly known as the free tuition program. Since the program was implemented, the public sector of higher education has been in the spotlight, while the independent sector, which includes NU, has been fading into the background of discussions.
“Why does it appear as though the independent sector is being excluded,” asked Rev. James J. Maher, C.M.
As New York’s executive budget is approaching its deadline, Bundy Aid and HEOP are on the chopping block. What would that mean for prospective students? The combination of increased financial aid for public colleges, and the decrease in aid for private universities will ultimately limit the options for students when it comes to choosing a college.
“If [Bundy] aid gets cut, it will lessen that choice for students,” said McCormick, “I really want to see students be able to figure out what’s the best fit for them.”
“Students should be able to drive their decision,” said Executive Vice President Dr. Debra Colley.
Many students don’t look twice at their financial aid package, and almost none of them think that they could lose that aid at the drop of a hat. This topic is not exclusive to administration, it involves each and every individual on campus.
Maher urged, “it’s really important that our students know how critical it is to get engaged on this topic.”