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Policy changes to TAP cause delays

by Betül Duru - Copy Editor
Wed, Dec 4th 2019 03:00 pm
The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation is now allowing undocumented students to apply for financial aid using student ID numbers. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis
The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation is now allowing undocumented students to apply for financial aid using student ID numbers. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis

When the time came to register for Spring semester classes, many students at The College at Brockport discovered their accounts had been frozen. This was due to a policy change that would permit undocumented students to apply for TAP next semester.

“TAP refers to one of the new forms in the New York State financially Tuition Assistance Program,” College Registrar Peter Dowe said. “It’s managed by an entity in Albany Higher Education Service Corporation (HESC). They manage, approximately 30 different kinds of awards for New York State financial aid; TAP is the biggest one of them. Most students who attend college in New York State are eligible for some amount of aid through this program. Back in the spring, the New York State Legislature adopted a bill and put it into law to assist undocumented people to get New York state aid.”

To assure undocumented students would receive aid, HESC adjusted its communicating process with New York State colleges. 

“They [HESC] always use social security number as the primary identifier for an individual,” Dowe said. “Since an undocumented individual may not have a social security number, they had to change that. So they are now using the students college ID numbers, which meant that they had to rewrite their software. We had a significant amount of conversation going on, estimates have been already sent out, but, you know, it does take them time to process. I know there was a delay in being able to certify the TAP awards here because of this process.”

Although the policy change opens many doors for undocumented students, there are concerns on how the state will proceed. 

“The colleges don’t want to necessarily have documentation that the federal government could come in and subpoena, forcing us to out somebody who’s an undocumented individual and possibly having them deported,” Dowe said. “There’s a lot of politics involved.”

Although students were not aware of the changes going on, the schools were, but not early enough to inform students. 

“The information that we received from HESC, we didn’t know there was going to be a delay until October, which is when we would have been starting the certification processes,” Dowe said. “Hopefully in the spring semester, there won’t be a delay.” 

Angela Thompsell, an assistant professor at The College of Brockport, said although professors can see there is a financial hold on students’ accounts, they do not know the reason behind it.

“We can’t help them figure out what is causing the hold,” Thompsell said.

Daniel Shipman was one of the many students affected by the delay at The College at Brockport. He realized something was off when his bill was higher than it should have been. 

“When I looked at the financial aid page, it said that I accepted it and everything, but it wasn’t applied yet onto my bill,” Shipman said. “I looked for money wherever I could get it; I had to take up a couple late charges; I almost didn’t get to register because I had a hold. I had to go to Rakov and see if they could get the hold lifted, and I called the financial aid office several times and they told me that they didn’t have the money, it wasn’t there yet, or it wasn’t processed or something. I called two or three times and one time they just right out said the people that usually give us the money haven’t given it to use yet.”

Shipman mentioned that although he called the financial aid office several times to make sure his grant was in the system, he did not receive satisfactory answers. 

“I just wish that the financial aid office would handle stuff like this better,” Shipman said. 

Even though the delay in TAP caused trouble for many students this semester, the change in policy is expected to benefit students in New York State in the near future. 

 

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