Promises by Gov. Kathy Hochul to further increase school aid this year is winning praise from unions and advocates, but in higher education, there's concern over rising tuition costs. 

Schools at all levels in New York, meanwhile, are adjusting to a new portion of the COVID era, with concerns over mental health support and learning loss. 

New York elementary and secondary schools are in line for a $2.7 billion hike in direct aid from the state, fulfilling a years-long effort to boost funding.

For New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta, the funding pledge averts a battle over the budget. 

"This is something where we have been fighting for this and working along with leaders and legislators throughout the years," he said Thursday in an interview. 

The funding promise made by Hochul this week comes after school aid was also increased last year as classrooms struggled with the effects of remote learning and mental health concerns. 

"What we see in the state where we have come through a real crisis and we want to make it better for all children," Pallotta said. 

Advocates like Marina Marcou-O'Malley of the Alliance for Quality Education hope the additional funding can help them focus on programs like early childhood education. 

"It is the foundation of our public school system and we have been working on it for a while, now we're able to devote more attention to it," she said. 

But at the state's public colleges and universities, a very different debate is taking place with a proposed increase in tuition by linking it to the higher education index or 3%, whichever is lower. Students like Brennan Gorman of the SUNY Student Assembly want a different direction. 

"So many perspective students are looking at our institutions and wanting to go and we want to give them that extra support," Gorman said. 

Student Assembly President Alexandria Chun pointed to the added burden the tuition hike could carry for students. 

"We have to put into consideration the impact of higher education on our students and our state itself, and really value that and work towards finding and implementing changes that will remove burdens off the backs of our students," Chun said. 

Hochul's office in a statement said the tuition hike would not affect students who receive aid from the Excelsior or the Tuition Assistance Program. 

"New York deserves the best public higher education system and Governor Hochul is committed to building world-class, equitable institutions," Hochul's office said. "Gov. Hochul's plan for CUNY and SUNY ensures that no student receiving a full TAP award or an Excelsior scholarship will experience additional tuition costs, while also providing for the long-term future and fiscal stability of public higher education in New York."

And then there are the mental health issues facing students the union that represents faculty and staff at SUNY campuses want state officials to address with funding support. 

"The fact is we have a crisis in mental health in this country, a crisis among students and among faculty," said Fred Kowal, the president of the United University Professions. 

Kowal praised Hochul's push for a $1 billion plan over the next several years to address mental health needs while also noting the role public higher education play in addressing the issue. 

"We know that SUNY is the place where we can address this issue," he said.