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Guv pushes for cheaper CUNY student loans

By Cory Tischbein

At the recommendation of the State Commission on Higher Education's report on education, Gov. David Paterson announced Monday he plans to push the state Legislature to establish a state-financed, low-interest student loan program for students at all colleges and universities in the state.

“New York is one of the only states in the nation without a state-financed student loan program. It is time for that to change,” Paterson said in a statement.

To the nearly 76,400 students attending the five CUNY schools in Queens, this means students ineligible for federal aid and currently working to afford tuition now have an alternative method of funding their educations.

The establishment of a state-financed student loan program will undoubtably bolster CUNY and SUNY's already impressive enrollment rates because, while federal and private loans may be available for most students, state-financed loans will probably be easier to obtain and offer students more attractive interest rates and repayment options.

Paterson plans to fund this program, at no cost to the state over the long term, through the issuance of revenue-backed bonds and introduce legislation for it into next year's budget.

The governor also said he plans to support the commission's recommendation to reform CUNY's and SUNY's regulatory rules, giving the institutions more leeway and ease when buying, selling, procuring and constructing property.

“We need to give CUNY and SUNY the flexibility to act nimbly and respond quickly to change,” Paterson said.

Paterson's predecessor, former Gov. Elliot Spitzer, became known as a champion of higher education by teachers and members of the state's Commission on Higher Education, which Spitzer established in May 2007.

Before the announcement. Paterson's position on financial issues facing the state's colleges and universities had not been clear.

“New York can and should be the national and international leader in higher education. With this report and Gov. Paterson's leadership, that can be a reality,” Hunter Rawlings, chairman of the state Commission on Higher Education, said in a statement.

In addition to a state-financed loan program, the commission's report also recommended allowing individual schools to raise their own tuition rates, hiring 2,000 new educators and implementing a 10-year research program that would distribute $300 million annually to public and private institutions across the state.

How Paterson will respond to the commission's other recommendations is unknown.

“Given the state's fiscal situation, we will first seek to implement those recommendations which achieve high impact at little or no cost and at the same time pursue innovative ways to finance some of the recommendations which require state funding,” Paterson said.

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