Tompkins Cortland Community College is prepared to handle large fluctuations in student registration rates if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to aid students with loan debt influences a change, officials say.
This tentative proposal, titled the “Get on Your Feet” Loan Forgiveness Program, allows graduates to have their first two-years of loan repayment aided by New York state.
Educators at colleges like TC3 are preparing for a change in enrollment and any financial change that may come as a result of the program’s announcement.
“Our funding is based on our enrollment numbers, so if we have more students, we would get more funding,” Peter Voorhees, Public Information Officer at TC3 said.
According to the NY state website, this program could affect as many as 24,000 students when it is fully implemented in the 2019-2020 academic year.
In the past, TC3’s students have had trouble repaying student loans. In October 2013, TC3 received notice that 23.5% of students who attended in 2010 were defaulting on their loans, according to Director of Financial Aid at TC3, LaSonya Griggs.
Loan default is when a debtor fails to repay a loan in the time allotted to them. A financier can take legal action to obtain money from a debtor after a loan is determined to be in default.
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that more than 70% of students pursuing an associates degree borrow less than $6,000.
Another report by the Federal Education Budget Project looked at national student default rates and found students who attended a public school for 2 years or less were defaulting at a rate of 13.6% in 2011.
In the spring of 2014, 2,180 full-time students were enrolled at TC3. Voorhees says the school deals with a lot of fluctuations in student admissions every semester.
“Our enrollment changes every year, so we have plenty of experience in dealing with fluctuations,” Voorhees said.
Samantha Hitchcock, a senior at Lansing High School, says almost half of the students at Lansing High School attend TC3 after graduation. But she describes TC3 as just a stepping stone school and that even if the Cuomo proposal was passed, she still wouldn’t select college based on cost.
“I applied to colleges that I want to go to first without the worry about cost,” she said.
Griggs, agrees community college can save college students a multitude of loan debt before entering a 4-year institution, “maybe they’ll go to a school that’s a little more expensive, in a program that may not yield them the best repayment options when they leave,” Griggs said. “If they are savvy enough, the proposal may help them [students choosing based on the loan repayment program].”
Griggs also says she doesn’t expect the college to receive a large influx of students if the program is passed through the state legislature.
“I don’t see [TC3] getting a whole lot of students from [the proposal]. I do see students who are smart and savvy enough to look at those kinds of things—it may influence their decisions into what school they will attend.”
To be eligible for “Get on Your Feet”, college graduates would have to meet the following criteria:
-Attend a college in New York and remain a resident of the state after graduation.
-Participate in the Federal PAYE program.
-Earn less than $50,000 a year.
Over the past five years, TC3’s full-time student enrollment numbers have not fluctuated more than 266 students, according to a review of the schools student enrollment rates by Ithaca Week.
The college offers high school students in the local area the opportunity to enroll in college courses before leaving high school and may help to show how TC3 has handled large fluctuations of students in the past. However, these enrollment numbers are only available from the past year and may have had a larger impact in the data mentioned above.
It is not clear how the college would handle a spike or deflation in student admission rates past that number.