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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"College Affordability Plan"

ALBANY, May 23 -- One of our local legends, Mark Twain, is credited with the following
advice to young people just getting started in life: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So…Explore. Dream. Discover.”

It’s college graduation season locally, statewide and across America, soon to be followed by the class of 2012 moving on from their high schools, so Twain’s words seem timely and traditional. But here at the start of the second decade of the 21st century, a long ways down the road from the days of Mark Twain, other thoughts inevitably intrude too. A Gallup Poll last August showed that nearly 70% of Americans strongly agree or agree that a college degree is “essential for getting a good job in this country.” I don’t find that surprising. But it’s also important to keep in mind a
recent Associated Press analysis showing that more than half of all college graduates are unemployed or underemployed – and at the same time most of them face significant college loan debt.

In so many ways, far more than can be covered in a short column like this one, the above juxtaposition captures one key struggle for the next generation: college is fundamental to a successful future, but securing that future sure has become expensive and uncertain.

Sixty-one percent of students who attend college in New York leave school in debt. In 2010, graduates from New York colleges had an average loan debt of $26, 271, 10th highest in the nation. Five years ago the average debt for New York schools was 20th highest in the country.
Nationally, college tuitions have increased well beyond the rate of inflation, income and health care costs. Estimates are that by 2016 the average cost of a public college will have more than doubled in 15 years. The amount of student debt is now more than $1 trillion, surpassing the amount owed on credit cards and auto loans.

While this graduation season rightly remains a time of celebration, we can’t overlook today’s reality that high college costs, looming future debt and an unpredictable economic outlook have combined to create a time of deep uncertainty for many young people and their families. So we
address it on numerous fronts.

Not long ago, Corning Community College formally inducted Dr. Katherine P. Douglas as its new president. I was glad to have this chance to welcome President Douglas and look forward to the excitement and success of her tenure at the helm of one of the nation’s finest community colleges.
A recent report from the American Association of Community Colleges, “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future,” captures the challenge (and the opportunity) facing these colleges and young people today. It’s timely reading and can be found online at:

Just last week, I joined my Senate colleagues in unveiling a new “College Affordability Plan” as a way to keep this critical challenge at the forefront of New York government’s attention. It’s a diverse strategy that seeks to ease the cost burden for students and families alike by doubling existing tuition tax credits and deductions to keep pace with rising costs. Among other affordability initiatives, it calls for expanding the availability of low-interest student loans – and cutting interest rates in half -- through the creation of a new public-private partnership. It seeks to encourage more of our bright, talented young men and women to stay in New York after they graduate in order to preserve the quality of our work force and, subsequently, strengthen our communities and economy alike. You can read more about the Senate’s “College Affordability Plan” on (click on the “College Affordability Plan” logo in the left-hand column of the homepage).

There are no quick or easy solutions. Most importantly, the discussion needs to be ongoing at every level of government, as well among colleges and universities themselves. The overriding point is that we still have plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the next generation and the dreams that young Americans have always had, from Mark Twain’s day to now, to pursue opportunities and define success in their own ways.

But here in 2012, we also have our work cut out for us to take better care of the future they’re moving toward.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869