PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNOR CUOMO'S OFFICE

Governor Cuomo’s “Get On Your Feet” loan forgiveness program is awaiting legislative approval. If approved, it is estimated that 7,100 graduates will be enrolled in its first year. PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNOR CUOMO’S OFFICE

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a “Get On Your Feet” loan forgiveness program, which he declared would help students “get their feet under them so that they can get on with their lives,” as a component of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda.

The proposal is awaiting legislative approval and should be fully implemented by the 2019-20 academic year, according to a press release by the governor’s office.

The agenda presented ideas regarding the reform of New York State’s education system, greater economic opportunities for the state and a plan to revitalize the public’s trust in New York’s justice system.

“Many of our new college graduates face high student loan debt as they begin their careers and it’s a troubling situation because they have high debt and low wages,” Cuomo said in his Jan. 21 announcement at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. “We want to help them get on their feet for the first two years.”

The “Get On Your Feet” program would be designed to allow eligible graduates to pay nothing toward their student loans for their first two years post-graduation. Students participating in “Get On Your Feet” would be enrolled in a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) loan repayment program, simultaneously, according to the governor’s press release.

The proposal states that in order to be eligible for the governor’s plan, students must meet three general requirements: attend college in New York and continue to live in the state following graduation, participate in the federal Pay As You Earn (PAYE) program and earn less than $50,000 annually.

Jacqueline Pascariello, director of Stony Brook’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Services, stated that she does not see a part of the college application process changing from this proposal.

When asked about how this proposal may affect current Stony Brook students, Pascariello said, “We are very fortunate that Stony Brook students tend to graduate with less debt than the national average. So it would really depend on their actual pay-scale as to whether or not it [the proposal] would have any effect.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mukut Patwary, a senior business and information systems double major, said. “It will give students the chance to manage their post-grad lifestyles without struggling or asking their parents for help.”

“I think it [the proposal] sounds absolutely amazing but I wonder why this only happening now all of a sudden,” Mariama Diallo, a freshman political science major, said. “It almost sounds too good to be true, like it’s too easy.”

An international student’s perspective was not much different.

“I’m an international student, but I think this is good for students who don’t get enough help from their university,” Liqun Yin, a freshman electrical engineering major, said.

“I would like for students to be able to come out of college and say ‘I’m going to do things that I think are important and give back to society,’ and they won’t have to worry so much about paying those loans back, so I really love the two-year forgiveness thing,” Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said about the governor’s loan plan at a meeting with student media on Feb. 18. “I think it’s a great plan for the state.”

It is estimated that 7,100 graduates will be enrolled in the program during the first year, according to the governor’s press release. This number is derived from several calculations and percentages, including the total number of undergraduates per year in New York State, the percentage of those who meet the program’s eligibility requirement of residency (82 percent), and those with loan debt and salaries below $50,000 a year.

Cuomo’s press release states that the state expects over 24,000 enrolled post-graduates annually by the 2019–2020 year. The program is expected to cost $41.7 million when it is put into full force.

“I think [Cuomo]’s put money aside for it in his budget that would be able to pay for it, which is even better,” Stanley said. “It would be tougher if they said schools had to pay for it, but they didn’t say that, so it’s a good thing that SUNY’s off the hook for that.”

“This plan is a good idea,” James Argyropoulos, a junior computer science major, said. “It will give students further incentive to stay in New York, and I think it will help out the tax pool.”

Does this proposal have the ability to make Stony Brook University a better option to prospective students?

“Remembering that it is a proposal and that not all the terms of the proposal have been worked out it is hard to say if it makes Stony Brook University more viable,” Pascariello said. “Our value makes us viable and I do not believe students will choose to come to Stony Brook because thinking they are going to be graduating with high debt and low incomes.”

“Studies show that students who graduate with debt are less likely to start a small business or to purchase a home,” the Governor’s press release states. “The consequences of defaulting on student loans can prevent a person from ever realizing their goals.”