September 24, 2001

Pataki Proposes Tuition Help for Sept. 11 Victims

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Gov. George E. Pataki proposed legislation last week that would provide families of victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 with free tuition to New York’s public colleges.

Under Pataki’s “World Trade Center Memorial Scholarship” plan, the state would pay the whole cost of attendance to any State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) institution for the spouses and children of victims or grant them an equivalent amount to attend a private college or university in the State.

The scholarships, worth about $12,000 a year would cover tuition, fees, room, board and transportation, Pataki said. Officials estimate that the new scholarships would be valued at more than $47,500 for four years of study.

Eligible recipients of aid will include families of victims — including those who lived out-of-state — who died or were seriously injured in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Scholarships for the spouses and children of victims who died in the other Sept. 11 attacks, including the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, would also be available.

“We have pledged to stand with the families of those killed by last week’s outrageous and cowardly attacks on the World Trade Center and today we take a small but important step to keep that pledge,” Pataki said in a press release. “These families should not have to worry about how they are going to pay for college and with this measure, they will never have to.”

To go into effect, the legislation would have to pass the State Senate and Assemby.

Pataki’s legislation would also broaden an existing program, The Memorial Scholarship for Families of Deceased Police Officers and Firefighters, that guarantees a college education to the families of police and firefighters who are killed on the job by extending the same benefit to fallen Emergency Medical Service workers’ families.

“This commitment, which will cover those who may be seriously injured in the difficult and dangerous work still ahead, will ensure that the families of our heroes will receive our support not only today but in five, ten, or 20 years, when they are ready to attend college,” Pataki said.

Pataki will also direct the Board of Trustees at SUNY and CUNY to implement the proposed policy immediately.

Cornell University officials have expressed their support of Pataki’s plan.

“I’m sure we will participate in this program,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations. “We haven’t seen the details of Gov. Pataki’s plan as yet, but my understanding is that private colleges such as Cornell would receive from the State of New York the same amount of reimbursement that is provided for the state-operated campuses of SUNY.”

Thomas Keane, director of the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment, also supported Pataki’s proposal. “I agree that the proposed legislation by Gov. Pataki is a good idea as public policy. I am pleased to note that student choices are not limited to SUNY and CUNY as the private colleges are also included in the proposal, to receive the SUNY or CUNY level of benefit,” he said.

Prof. John Sipple, education, noted that in addition to being a compassionate gesture, Pataki’s plan would attract more students to New York State colleges and universities.

“This is quite a nice gesture in light of the tragic events of last week. This will certainly offer an enticing opportunity for many families who might otherwise not have as many options. This is also a nice opportunity for the SUNY system to attract a greater number of students, and in the case of the Pentagon victims, attract students who might not otherwise look at the [New York] State public universities,” he said.

Sipple does not know how this legislation may impact the New York State budget. “Notwithstanding the loss of tuition revenue, it could be a win-win for both the families and SUNY. From a budget standpoint, I do not know how much of an impact this will have on the state budgets in future years nor how much of this is driven by political ambitions in Albany,” he said.

State officials did not release an estimate of how many students they expect will take advantage of this proposal.

Joe LaMonte ’02 conveyed support for Pataki’s plan, however noting, that it cannot make up for the loss that victims’ families have experienced.

“It’s only a small reparation for what [the victims’ families] have lost, but it’s a nice gesture,” he said.

Other students pointed out that Pataki’s plan may create inequalities in the aid provided to victims of crime.

“Obviously Pataki’s proposal is generous and the families of World Trade Center victims are deserving of such aid but what about all the other needy families in New York City? There are victims of crime and drugs who are equally deserving,” said Camilla Welsch ’03.

Pataki’s proposed legislation, which would become effective immediately and be applicable to the current 2001-02 academic year, has received support from New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, CUNY Chancellor Dr. Matthew Goldstein and SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King, among others.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin