To What Degree Can You Boost College Completion Rates?

To What Degree Can You Boost College Completion Rates?

Colleges are doing better than ever attracting new students, but the same can’t be said for getting students to finish degrees.

In fact, about four out of every 10 students who start college never finish, leaving many with student loan debt but no college degree to show for it. Growing research and resources show improving college completion rates is good for students, colleges/universities, and society overall. Is it time to jump on the bandwagon?

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Center (NSC), which tracks completion rate trends, the 2021 six-year completion rate for those who started in the fall of 2015 reached 62.2% (a 1.2% increase over 2014), with the largest increase in community colleges. reports that in 2021 just 41% of students completed college in four years.

poll conducted by Third Way and New America found that due to the pandemic one out of every three students believe they’ll need an additional semester or year to finish college. Since this requires more funding, there’s a chance many of these students will never get their degree.

Those who don’t finish college see much lower earnings than their counterparts who do graduate.

2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics Data shows the following relationships between education and earnings:

  • Less than a high school degree: $619 weekly and $32,188 annually
  • High School Degree: $781 weekly and $40,612 annually
  • Some college: $877 weekly and $45,604 annually
  • Associate’s degree: $938 weekly and $48,776 annually
  • Bachelor’s degree: $1,305 weekly and $67,860 annually
  • Master’s degree: $1,545 weekly and $80,340 annually
  • Professional degree: $1,893 weekly and $98,436 annually
  • Doctorate degree: $1,885 weekly and $98,020 annually

Students aren’t the only ones impacted – institutions of higher learning are, too.

According to, “Students who drop out in order to attend a different institution, or who drop out entirely, will negatively impact graduation rates and generate lost tuition revenue.”

What’s an institution of higher learning to do?

Some states are using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand programs shown to improve completions rates, like CUNY ASAP (which doubled participant graduation rates) and Bottom Line (which increased graduation rates by 23% in four years). Colorado has a task force charged with using remaining ARPA funds to improve completion rates. North Carolina invested $2 million of CARES Act funds to expand its Accelerate, Complete and Engage (ACE) program to enhance bachelor’s degree completion rates in the state’s school system.

Some schools are benefiting from the Title III Strengthening Institutions program Part A, using funds specifically for retention and completion purposes.

Proposed legislation like the College Completion Fund Act would provide for $62 billion over 10 years on programs to help students complete their degrees.  There’s a lot of lobbying for Federal retention and completion funds in 2023 fiscal year appropriations.

Some colleges are already moving ahead with their own retention grant programs. reports that the main reason students leave college is financial. Some colleges offer small grants for those close to graduating, owing a modest amount, who used up all other aid sources, and are at risk of dropping out due to funds. One study found about a third of colleges that used these grants experienced higher graduation rates among recipients.

Georgia State University’s retention grant program has had 86% of recipients since 2011 going on to complete their degrees. Perhaps even more notable: it also benefits the university. Boston Consulting Group showed “for every 1,500 grants disbursed, the university receives an additional $5.4 million to $9.2 million in revenue. Even after including the costs of the grants themselves and the costs associated with the administration of the program, the Boston Consulting Group estimated that Georgia State’s return on investment was between $4 million and $7.8 million.”

Grants are just one solution – there are others.

Refer to the U.S. Department of Education database containing individual college and university plans for driving retention and completion. Also the University Innovation Alliance has a playbook to help institutions interested in exploring and starting a retention and completion program.

For insights and assistance on how investing in a retention and completion program can have a positive impact on accounting and taxes, give RBT CPAs a call. We’re the Hudson Valley’s premier accounting firm and within the top 250 nationwide. A number of institutes of higher learning in the area are already our clients – see why. Give us a call.

Do You Know About These Finance Resources Available through the State?

Do You Know About These Finance Resources Available through the State?

New York State’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System helps counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts check vital signs for fiscal health and, when appropriate, proactively take action to address and fix issues. Take a moment to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the tools and resources the state offers to monitor, act (when appropriate), and maintain strong fiscal health.

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System was created by New York State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli in 2012 and is a lot like an annual physical. During an annual physical, a doctor collects information about certain key health factors; tracks and compares that information year to year; and, using baseline data, either helps the individual fix any issues or refers him/her for more specialized care to manage a condition. The state’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System works much the same way. It provides an early warning to local officials and residents to indicate when action is needed to manage potential risks to finances, property taxes, and essential services.

Based on financial factors, fiscal stress scores are assigned and reported publicly. Financial indicators include year-end fund balance, short-term cash-flow borrowing, cash position and operating deficit patterns.

Stress scores using data from Annual Financial Reports for fiscal years ending 2021 have started to be reported via a press release and lists posted on the comptroller’s website. (School district scores were released in January.) A second, separate analysis of environmental factors using US Census Bureau data provides insight into a local government’s or school district’s economic health and other challenges.

In addition to these reports, insights from the Office of the Comptroller can highlight points of focus for local municipalities. As noted in a recent press release, “The financial landscape for many local governments has improved with the infusion of federal aid and stronger economic activity,” DiNapoli said. “The relief funds are temporary, so it is critical that local communities make changes, including carefully managing debt and engaging in long-term planning, that help improve their financial outlook for years down the road.”

Beyond the fiscal stress report, the Office of the Comptroller provides:

  • A self-assessment tool – which can be especially helpful during budget planning processes – so local officials can determine stress scores using current and future financial assumptions.
  • Numerous live and on-demand webinars on a variety of topics from budgeting, financial planning, and procurement to capital planning, audits, taxes, and more.
  • Reference guides, research reports, and other resources.
  • A Financial Toolkit, which provides targeted information, tools, and training to address potential challenges and issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • New York Open Book, a site that tracks state and local spending and makes public financial records, state contracts, and other commonly requested data.

If you prefer more personalized guidance on finance and accounting, remember, RBT CPAs is available to help. We’re one of the Hudson Valley’s leading accounting firms and we have extensive experience working with local governments and school districts. Give us a call.

Check, Please! College Student Covid Relief Update

Check, Please! College Student Covid Relief Update

In January, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced it was distributing $198 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support colleges, universities and students in 2022. Much of the funding (50% to 100%) must be used for Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) grants for students.

Community and rural colleges with at least 50% of students being Pell Grant recipients and at least a 4.5% enrollment decline year over year; institutions where at least 90% of the student body consists of graduate students; and institutions that didn’t receive previous HEERF disbursements due to application errors will receive priority for funds.

Thousands of U.S. colleges and universities have received HEERF funds. They have broad discretion to distribute the student aid portion pretty much as they see fit. In general, they award grants to students ranging from an average of a couple of hundred dollars to $3,000 (with some colleges offering even more); they are intended to help students cover ongoing expenses like tuition, housing, food, and healthcare (including mental healthcare).

Funds cannot be applied to students’ outstanding account balances without permission or reduce financial aid. They are not considered income, so no taxes apply, and they have no impact on FAFSA filings.

The process for distributing funds varies. Many colleges automate allocations based on financial need using FAFSA information. Some also offer discretionary grants that require students to complete an application process.

Colleges and universities who received HEERF funds are required to provide detailed reporting on the use of funds and timing of distributions. Data about how a school is distributing funds, how many students received grants, how much money has been distributed, and more must be posted on a school’s website by predetermined deadlines. For complete details, refer to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) HEERF Reporting Guidelines.

In early April, ED extended the performance period for all open HEERF grants to June 30, 2023.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education website which includes revised FAQs from the IRS and auditing requirements.  Also visit the NASFAA website.

In related news, on April 6, the ED extended the student loan payment pause through August 31.  What’s more, any student debt forgiven after December 31, 2020, or through January 1, 2026, is no longer considered taxable (which can translate into big savings for student loan borrowers).

There’s likely more changes, clarifications, and information to come – keep an eye out for future RBT CPA Thought Leadership articles designed to keep you in-the-know. In the meantime, if you have any questions about taxes or audits related to ARPA funding, give your RBT CPA contact a call.

The Border Crisis in Our Backyard

The Border Crisis in Our Backyard

When we think about the crisis at the border, images from Texas come to mind.

Actually, the crisis is a lot closer than that. Last year, media coverage about middle-of-the-night flights to New York airports drew attention to the fact that the crisis touches communities throughout the U.S., including the Hudson Valley. In this post, we explore how immigrant children make their way to the Hudson Valley, why, and the effects on local communities and school districts.

Among the masses crossing the boarder are unaccompanied children.

According to Pew Research, there were over 144,000 in 2021. While awaiting immigration proceedings, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is required by Federal law to feed, shelter, and care for these minors until they can be released to safe settings with sponsors. About 85% are released to sponsors – usually family – while  others enter foster care or are taken in by charities across the U.S.  Sponsors must provide for a child’s physical and mental well-being.  Because of trafficking, abuse, violence and smuggling, policies protect the children’s identities and locations.

Between October 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021, unaccompanied children transported and released to sponsors across the Hudson Valley include 282 in Orange County; 553 in Rockland County; 570 in Westchester County; 73 in Putnam County; 109 in Dutchess County; and 80 in Ulster County.  Does that mean the local school districts had to absorb the increase in enrollment and educational needs? In a word, yes.

As reported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “When unaccompanied children are released to an appropriate sponsor, while awaiting immigration proceedings, they have a right — just like other children living in their community — to enroll in local schools regardless of their or their sponsors’ actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status. State laws also require children to attend school up to a certain age.”

While no one can deny the heartbreak felt for unaccompanied children, there are also concerns about the impact on local communities and schools. Some of the children have learning disabilities, can’t speak English, and don’t know Spanish. They may not have attended school before. Although young, there are concerns about potential gang affiliations, violence, and drugs. All of this can put additional stress on a district’s finances, staff, programs, and performance.

The DOE lists these resources that may be helpful for communities enrolling immigrant children:

  • Services for Educationally Disadvantaged Children (Title I):Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides funds to drive achievement of children at high-poverty schools. Newly arrived immigrant children attending Title I schools, may be eligible to receive Title I, Part A services. For more information, click here.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):IDEA funds may be used to evaluate children suspected of having a disability. If a child is found to have a disability, funds may be used to provide special education and related services. For more information, click here.
  • English Language Acquisition Programs:Up to 15% of a state’s Title III funds under the ESEA must be set aside for subgrants to local education agencies with a significant increase in immigrant students to be used for improving instruction, providing tutoring and intensified instruction, and conducting community participation programs. If a state previously reserved a lesser amount, it can increase that amount for next year’s subgrants. Click here and here for more information.
  • McKinney-Vento Act:Children who live with sponsor family members in “doubled-up” housing (i.e., sharing the housing of other persons due to economic hardship or a similar reason) may be eligible for services under the act. Eligibility information is here. Information about rights and services is here.
  • Migrant Education Programs (MEP):MEP provides education and support services to children who are migratory agricultural workers or fishers. Newly arrived immigrant children may qualify, as determined on a case-by-case basis. Additional information is available here.
  • National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition:This Clearinghouse provides non-monetary aide in academic language development and models to serve recently arrived immigrant students and English language learners. Additional information is here.

If you have questions, refer to these DOE Resources: Fact Sheet and Fact Sheet II: Enrolling New Immigrant Students. For additional information, please call the U.S. Department of Education  at 1-800-USA-LEARN. Finally, if you know any sponsors or unaccompanied children who could use assistance, here’s A Guide to Resources in the Hudson Valley for Immigrants.

If your district or agency needs any assistance with taxes or accounting, please contact us at RBT CPAs.

Is Tenure the Driver or Red Herring of Higher Education Costs?

Is Tenure the Driver or Red Herring of Higher Education Costs?

Turnover for college leadership is increasing. Enrollment is down and the U.S. population is barely growing. University and college costs are high, as is student debt. Still, when COVID hit, institutions of higher learning turned on a dime and figured out how to continue adding value and justify costs when so many other aspects of society simply paused. The solutions adopted in COVID’s early days prompted renewed discussions about college costs and whether there are ways – like changing tenure laws – to make higher education more accessible for everyone over the long-term.

Modern-day tenure laws for higher education were born over 80 years ago. They existed before personal computers, MTV, microwaves, Facebook, and more. Education traditionalists assert the rights afforded to pursue truth, challenge the status quo, and answer tough questions can never be outdated. Tenured professionals are protected to explore the unexplored and ask the unanswered through research that is not tied to capitalism or politics but is for the common good. Not everyone agrees.

Some believe tenure drives up costs, amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over one person’s career, and translating into higher tuition. There are also questions about whether tenure adds value, driving performance and results, and benefits students.

There are questions to be answered on the flip side of the argument. If a state changes its tenure laws, what will that mean to accreditation and its colleges’/universities’ ability to compete against schools in other states and around the world? What impact will it have on public versus private institutions within the same state? What will it mean to higher education in the long-term?

It’s an understatement to say higher education is in a state of disruption (like most industries once the initial panic about COVID passed).

At the end of last year, Hawaii followed the lead of several other states in evaluating the role of tenure in higher ed and the appetite for change.  While some interesting proposals were brought to the table – like only offering tenure for teaching professionals and librarians (not purely researchers) – strong resistance by educators and institutions of higher learning paused progress, for now, but the conversation appears far from over.

In Georgia, the American Association of University Professors is challenging changes to tenure policies that would allow firing, the revocation of tenure, or suspended pay for not meeting performance standards. In South Carolina, 2021 ended with a bill on the table to eliminate tenure for future higher educators. Across the U.S., there’s a growing appetite for change in higher education, but the jury’s still out on what that will look like and when.

One interesting data point: Apparently, only one in four faculty hired at colleges/universities is on a tenure track. BestColleges reports that from 1975 to 2015, tenure-track positions decreased by 50% and full-time tenured positions dropped by 26%. This leads to the question: Is targeting tenure reform really the answer?

Another interesting point: After college costs increased by 169% from 1980 to 2019, according to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, tuition increased at historically low rates and even decreased, when adjusting for inflation. Does this mean higher education costs have turned a corner or is the slowdown in growth temporary and resulting from the CARES Act and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund?

One final consideration: Is the tenure discussion part of a larger narrative focused on reinventing higher education in a post-COVID world? What is the role of government versus higher education leadership? What will higher education and its delivery models look like 5 or 10 years from now? What will all of this mean to institutions of higher learning in New York State?

The answers are coming and may be more far-reaching and complex than tenure. Stay tuned. Remember! Your partners at RBT CPAs are here to help ensure you meet all your financial obligations; understand how COVID relief funds impact budgets, reporting, and taxes; and help ensure you’re prepared should an audit be required. Contact your local office for assistance.

SOURCES: FORBES, Best Colleges, Brookings.Edu, CNBC, Mckinsey & Co.

The 4 Best Ways to Boost Enrollment

The 4 Best Ways to Boost Enrollment

Growing enrollment in higher education is essential for generating revenue.

School budgets are primarily made up of tuition and state support based on the number of students enrolled in a per-pupil funding system. Public and private schools are in an intensive never-ending cycle of enrollment-driven anxiety-causing budget deficits. Higher education is experiencing the greatest decline in college enrollments in a decade with falling enrollment rates ranging from 4.9% to 9.5%.

Changing approaches has been crucial as schools face many unknowns and major shifts that recalibrate enrollment management. Unfortunately, this downward trend may be long term, and the need for schools to adapt long term to challenges, requires diversification of retention and recruitment approaches.

Moving forward, here are some proven strategies your team can borrow from other higher educational institutions to address enrollment:

  1. Examine your structural framework: Engage in a strategic assessment of your enrollment management processes. Align your internal structural strategy with your enrollment goals along with any outside factors. At SUNY New Paltz, for example, this examination resulted in key streamlining shifts, giving more attention to online program delivery, and to broadening the existing scope of current employee’s roles when budgets don’t sustain hiring for new positions. An examination of how your school recruits and serves the student population can lead to more efficiency. Many structures and processes have served well in the past but refreshing the structural process will help you thrive in the future.
  2. Investigate your Institutional Influence: Think about how your school is an agent of social power, with influence, that can optimize your capacity to meet more diverse students’ demands by changing outdated admissions and enrollment policies that can expand your reach.  Organizations can influence the kind of policies they have, and they can achieve noble purposes such as publicly showing care for people. One specific public policy change occurred during the pandemic. In 2020, the admission process did not require standardized test scores like the SAT or ACTs. This policy was loosened up to be more inclusive, shifting the value of an applicant beyond a test score and it removes barriers for underrepresented populations and makes room for more equitable enrollments. Admissions officers can choose to allow tests to be optional because arguably tests do not tell the full story of a candidate. Diversity policies provide a competitive advantage when it comes to increasing enrollment and currently works in unison with current social movements.
  3. Invest in Relationship Building: Another useful tactic to increase enrollment is building trusting relationships that tap into what students specifically want or need in order to motivate them to choose your school. Your school can generate feelings of being known, cared for, and supported when they nurture relationships with prospective students by showing genuine interest and maintaining connections. Form personal connections that matter by making phone calls, sending birthday cards, inviting them to join special events, sending a handwritten note, allowing prospective students to try out courses, or making a customized video of their tour. Relationship building can help match students to the best fitting schools by narrowing down a larger pool of prospective enrollees into more seriously interested applicants that finally enroll. Interested families will become more and more excited about your school during the recruitment process as you make efforts to understand what is driving their decisions. It is financially imperative to emphasize common goals as students and organizations rely upon one another. It helps students decide on the fit and commit to your school.
  4. Tell a Good Story: Good stories convey cultural information about our school’s morals, values, and beliefs. Make your school story memorable, convincing, and distinguishing. The story should carry history and reinforce the school’s identity. Crafting and continually renewing a strong school story using technological tools is an indispensable plan of action to reinforce enrollment management practices. With dynamic communication methods, schools can publicize marketing messages that highlight institutional stories to attract students to enroll. Help them to believe your school is where they belong, providing a narrative of hope for their futures.

Here at RBT, our team is experienced with handling the unique financial pressures your school is up against. We hope these strategies will help your school redefine needs and evolve through the enrollment struggle. If you’d like to know more, our dedicated education team is here to help develop a personalized long-term strategy for your school. Please feel free to contact us today to connect. Additionally, if you would like to submit topic ideas for future articles our team produces, please feel free to contact us at

$100 Million in Funding for NY Shelter

$100 Million in Funding for NY Shelter

All across the state, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the true extent of housing insecurity and made it even more challenging for struggling New Yorkers to pay rent.

The Hudson Valley continues to face intense housing pressures and rapid price escalations. Change has already come to many local communities – much of it with the potential to cause widespread displacement. How local government manages that change and protects our most vulnerable community members should remain top of mind as we enter 2022.

On a local level, we have continued to see the number of those experiencing homelessness rise over recent years, and the need for supportive services is greater than ever throughout the region.

Consider the most recent (pre-pandemic) data from non-profit Hudson River Housing. Between 2015 and 2019, the rate of homelessness grew by 42% in Dutchess County. The rate of homelessness is much higher in Dutchess County than in other parts of New York (excluding NYC) and slightly higher than the national rate of homelessness. What can be done? Funding is on the way, and you need to know how to access it. Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced new funding for counties to better assist at-risk populations as we enter 2022 and beyond.

$100 million in new funding is headed to counties to help homeless individuals and families leave the shelter system for a permanent home by providing rental assistance. The funds may also help very low-income New Yorkers pay their rent and increase their housing security. Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the New York State Rental Supplement Program will provide funding to localities in all 57 counties and New York City to offer rental assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness or facing the imminent loss of housing. The Rental Supplement Program is now the primary state-funded rental assistance program available for New Yorkers struggling to pay rent. Adopted as part of the FY2022 budget, the program is providing nearly $68 million for New York City and more than $32 million to all other counties throughout the state. Counties will have the flexibility to develop a program that meets the needs of their underserved populations.

Who is eligible to receive financial assistance?

Households seeking the rent supplement may earn no more than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to be eligible. Initial priority will be given to those earning 30% or less. Half of the supplements are earmarked for families or individuals that are in shelters or experiencing homelessness, and the program is available to all eligible households, regardless of their immigration status.

Rental supplement amounts will be funded at 85% of the local fair-market rent values, with localities having the option to pay up to 100% by using local funds. A household receiving the supplement will contribute no more than 30% of their total earned income toward their monthly rent. The supplement can only be used for upcoming rental payments, with local social service districts determining coverage for arrears, which can only be paid with local funds.

Each county or locality must opt into the program and submit a distribution plan to OTDA. They may choose to directly administer their allocation or delegate it to another public agency, contractor, or non-profit organization.

While the precariousness of housing has increased for many, the greater attention on housing issues has raised awareness about the housing crisis that we know has existed for decades.

New York State is now a national leader in rent relief funds distributed, with the full initial allotment of more than $2.1 billion fully obligated. At RBT, we understand that local government officials are facing enormous pressures. You can find added value in working with professionals who understand your governmental sector and the unique factors which impact your entity. Since 1969, our governmental clients have depended on RBT CPAs, LLP professionals for assistance with all types of financial issues, and we’re here to help you, too. Give us a call if you have questions or would like to set up a consultative appointment.

Sources: Governor.Ny.Gov, Hudson River Housing

Do Your Team Members Qualify for Limited Time Loan Forgiveness?

Do Your Team Members Qualify for Limited Time Loan Forgiveness?

For years, thousands of teachers, educators, social workers, military members, and other public servants in New York were promised debt relief support that never arrived. The harsh reality is that just over 16,000 borrowers nationwide have ever received forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. In 2018, it was revealed that nearly 99% of applicants were denied forgiveness. Now, nearly 15 years after the program was officially launched, some good news is here for public servants. As a result of the COVID-19 national emergency and the tremendous strain it placed on public servants, on Oct. 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (DE) announced an overhaul to the PSLF program rules.

Now, for a limited period of time, borrowers may receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF. As 2021 comes to a close, it’s important to address this change with all of your team members to ensure everyone who qualifies takes advantage of this huge savings opportunity. Read on to learn more about what to expect.

Through October 2022, borrowers who have worked 10 years (or made 120 qualifying monthly payments) in a qualifying job will be eligible for loan relief no matter what kind of federal loan or repayment plan they have. Past loan payments that were previously ineligible will now count, moving some borrowers closer to the finish line.

The change will immediately make 22,000 borrowers eligible to get loans canceled, and another 27,000 could become eligible if they get previous payments certified, according to the department. In total, more than 550,000 borrowers will be moved closer to forgiveness, the agency said.

“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers.”

The Department of Education will be ramping up its efforts to review eligibility and approve loan forgiveness under the waiver program through most of the next year. Among other changes, the department will allow military members to count time on active duty toward the 10 years, even if they put a pause on making their payments during that time.

While DE will roll out these improvements in groups over the coming months, the department has not provided a specific timeline for the rollout of the new PSLF benefits. To assist your team in further understanding this limited PSLF opportunity, you can read these frequently asked questions and answers on Borrowers should also ensure the contact information on file is accurate, so direct them to register for an FSA ID at or update their contact information by logging in and visiting Additionally, feel free to contact our dedicated team of professionals at RBT who specialize in helping government clients. We look forward to providing you with personalized services and answering industry-specific questions.

Sources: Student Aid, DOE, NBC, NPR

Window Closing for NY Scholarship Raffle

Window Closing for NY Scholarship Raffle

If financial planning teaches you anything, it’s that it is never too early to start saving up.

The next generation is bound to face steep higher education costs – just how high? Let’s break down the price projections for kids (currently age 5) who will enroll in college in 13 years. If college costs rise at 5% a year, the annual cost to attend a four-year public state college or university will be $44,136 (up from $23,406 over 13 years). The total cost for 4 years (s) will then be $190,230. That’s a hefty price tag. One new statewide program is offering 50 lucky kids a chance at free full-ride scholarships, but the eligibility rules will disqualify a lot of families from even entering the race.

Educate, Graduate Vaccine Incentive Scholarship is a five-week public outreach campaign, running through December 19, 2021, consisting of a series of statewide drawings to increase awareness of the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and provide incentives for young New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

The scholarship announcement program came as Hochul noted New York was receiving more than 700,000 pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, with plans to soon obtain more doses for the entire 1.5 million New Yorkers in the age group. Hochul also announced that 65% of the more than 700 school districts statewide are planning to host vaccination clinics at or near school buildings for the 5-to-11 age group in the coming weeks. As of November 3, 2021, New York children ages 5 – 11 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The state launched a new website to help parents and families navigate their frequently asked questions surrounding the vaccine.

So, how does the raffle work?

Parents or legal guardians of any 5 to 11-year-old New Yorker who has received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, may enter their child for a chance to win a four-year, full-ride scholarship (including tuition, fees, room-and-board, and expenses) to any two-year or four-year New York State public college or university. All non-winners will be automatically included in subsequent weeks’ lotteries. No entrant may win more than one prize under this program and while it isn’t a requirement for children to have obtained the vaccination within New York State to be eligible, the state does have a validation process in place.

Entries must be received by December 19, 2021, 2021 at 11:59:59 p.m. EDT to be eligible for at least one drawing. The drawings will be conducted weekly, for five (5) weeks. The first drawing will take place in less than a week, on November 22, 2021. Ten winners will be announced weekly beginning Wednesday, November 24, 2021, for five consecutive weeks. A total of 50 prize winners will be selected. Interested applicants must complete entries at

At RBT, we understand vaccination decisions are extremely personal and that family members and educators in our communities are having important conversations in and outside of the classroom. Our goal is to provide our clients with relevant, timely information regarding financial savings opportunities, and strategic financial planning that impacts the education industry’s technical needs, so you can serve your respective communities to the best of your ability. We are constantly monitoring industry changes and governmental decisions that impact your institutions. Our team of professionals is dedicated to serving you and your colleagues. Questions? Contact us today here. Additionally, if you would like to submit topic ideas for future articles our team produces, please feel free to contact us at


New NY Law Cracks Down on Code Enforcement

New NY Law Cracks Down on Code Enforcement

Local governments that are lax on code enforcement are being put on high alert by New York lawmakers after a stricter building code violation law was approved earlier this month by Gov. Kathy Hochul. What prompted the change, when does it take effect, and what does your municipality need to know? Read on.

Higher fines are on the way for property owners who repeatedly violate building codes and have left them unaddressed. The law sponsored by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-Rockland) and Senator Rachel May (D-Onondaga, Madison, Oneida) imposes a minimum fine of $25 a day after 180 days of a property being in violation. A minimum violation of a property not being addressed of $50 a day would be imposed after 360 days. The maximum violation remains $1,000 a day as levied by a court.

Currently, any citation issued to a property owner for a violation of the uniform code has a 30 day “cure” period for the property owner to correct the issue before being subject to any fines. After the cure period, the court may levy fines of up to $1,000 per day that the violation continues uncured, however, these fines can technically be as low as a single cent. Lawmakers who backed the bill said the new tougher fine structure is meant to push municipal governments to act faster on properties that are not up to code and have languished for months with token fines put in place.

“Across New York our municipalities are facing a crisis with the housing stock. Our communities are suffering under absentee landlords and fear that landlords will retaliate if they report code violations in their homes. This legislation has the teeth to hold repeat offenders accountable for their bad management practices by denying them access to more properties and implementing increasing fines for failure to fix existing issues in their current properties. Everyone deserves a safe and healthy place to call home,” said Senator May.

On August 5, 2019, the Committees on Investigations and Government Operations and Housing, Construction, and Community Development released a report on code enforcement in New York State and the findings were less than impressive. The investigation concluded the lack of prioritization of code enforcement in municipalities across the State is significantly contributing to the culture of poor compliance that ultimately endangers the lives of residents and first responders. The report found that all municipalities investigated failed to impose meaningful penalties to deter code violations and that owners view the fines imposed as the cost of doing business.

“It is well past time for the culture of ‘build now, ask for forgiveness later’ to end. Whether it’s in Rockland or across New York State, this attitude is putting the lives of residents and first responders at risk. Continually violating the building code is reckless and property owners must be held accountable. Ensuring there are repercussions to these unscrupulous property owners does just that,” said Assemblyman Zebrowski. 

The law takes effect March 3, 2022, so don’t delay to ensure your team is up to speed and has a plan in place to better serve your community. If you have questions regarding this new law or about creating a safety plan to ensure your team is doing everything in its power to monitor code enforcement swiftly and efficiently, we can help. Contact our dedicated Government group at RBT to schedule a consultation today. Additionally, if you would like to submit feedback or topic ideas for future articles our team produces, please feel free to contact us at

Sources: Kenneth Zebrowski, Spectrum