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New York State will require public school districts to certify that every high school senior completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), a similar financial aid form for undocumented students, or a waiver saying they or their parents have opted out of financial aid. The requirement is part of the new fiscal year 2024–25 budget.

“Governor [Kathy] Hochul is committed to ensuring students know what aid is available to them and can access that support for college,” the governor’s office said in a news release Monday. The opt-out waiver form will indicate that a student or their parents are aware of the possible aid they could receive.

States across the country have been struggling to ensure college access amid the U.S. Education Department’s continued bungled rollout of the new FAFSA application. The National College Attainment Network estimated that FAFSA completions were down 24 percent in New York state as of March 29 and over 45 percent specifically in New York City, making the city’s decline steeper than in any U.S. state.

The budget brings total state operation funding for New York higher education to $7.58 billion, up from $7.22 billion for fiscal year 2023–2024. Hochul touted Monday that the new budget increases the state’s minimum Tuition Assistance Program award for students from $500 to $1,000 and raises income cutoff thresholds to expand eligibility for the program.

The budget also promises increased state operating support for the City University of New York and State University of New York systems, including $100 million for SUNY Downstate.

United University Professions, a faculty union at SUNY, praised the budget in its own news release and claimed credit for “effectively killing SUNY’s plan to close Downstate University Hospital.”

In an email to Inside Higher Ed, a SUNY spokesperson wrote that the budget “represents remarkable progress compared to where we started in January—with SUNY Downstate’s hospital running a $100 million annual deficit and at risk of being forced to close this summer without additional funding." The hospital's long-term future is still unclear, but the spokesperson said the budget “includes $300 million in capital funding for the modernization and revitalization of SUNY Downstate and to help implement recommendations produced by a new advisory board helping to chart Downstate's future.