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SUNY Chancellor is urging students to complete the FAFSA

SUNY Chancellor John King speaking with Albany High Schoolers about college and financial aid
Samantha Simmons
SUNY Chancellor John King speaking with Albany High Schoolers about college and financial aid

State University of New York Chancellor John King is urging high schoolers to seek out financial aid for college.

With the school year winding down, Governor Kathy Hochul sent letters to families and school administrators across the state encouraging students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The letter informed students and administrators of grants, scholarships, and loan forgiveness opportunities through the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation. Deputy Secretary for Education Maria Fernandez says high schools play a role in preparing students for the application process.

“It's about economic opportunities. It's about being able to provide our citizens with housing, with education,” Fernandez said. “And so having the universal FAFSA was incredibly important to us. It was something we wanted to ensure that students knew how to fill out, they could get past the difficulties that we've had.”

In December 2023, the FAFSA received an overhaul, making it shorter and easier to complete. This was made possible through some information being pulled from tax return documents and the elimination of some questions.

SUNY Chancellor King says students often forego the application because of a perceived difficulty or lack of resources. Speaking after a roundtable discussion with several students at Albany High School, King says application submissions in the state are down a quarter from last year, likely due to delays caused by changes to the application’s format.

But King says there has been a “double-digit increase” in the percentage of submissions nationwide.

“When students graduate with a bachelor's degree, they earn more than a million dollars more over their lifetime as a result,” King said. “So, we want more New Yorkers to take advantage of these opportunities. Excelsior and TAP together are helping so many of our students attend tuition free.”

King says $200 million in federal aid went unclaimed by New York high schoolers last year — partly because many students in low-income communities don’t complete the application, believing even with financial aid, higher education is unaffordable.

The average cost for a New York state resident to attend SUNY as of August 2023 is more than $13,500 for commuters and more than $24,500 for students who live on campus.

King says it’s not only beneficial for students to fill out the application, but it’s in the state’s economic interest, too.

“We know that the student debt crisis nationally is causing folks to delay getting married to delay starting a business to put off having children because they have this albatross of student debt,” King said. “At SUNY, we've tried to stay affordable.”

Schools like Albany High School are working with their students to complete the application by hosting financial aid nights where students and parents can get help filling out the application. Kendall Hunt, a senior, says the simplified application was a breeze.

“I was nervous. That's why I came into the FAFSA night at my school and then they came and helped me do it,” Hunt said.

In the new state budget, SUNY received a $114 million operating increase. The income threshold for the Tuition Assistance Program was also raised for the first time in nearly 25 years.

King says conversations continue with the legislature about how to sustain the SUNY system as costs continue to rise.

Samantha joined the WAMC staff after interning during her final semester at the University at Albany. A Troy native, she looks forward to covering what matters most to those in her community. Aside from working, Samantha enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cat. She can be reached by phone at (518)-465-5233 Ext. 211 or by email at ssimmons@wamc.org.