This State's Free College Plan Won't Actually Send More Kids to CollegeBy Darlene Powers Apr 19, 2017
Cuomo estimates that New York's tuition-free scholarship program will benefit about 32,000 students at SUNY colleges. Also, to ensure that assets "stay in state" (in Cuomo's words), the legislation requires that Excelsior recipients continue to live and work in New York State after they graduate - one year of residence for every year that they received the scholarship. So despite NY being a sanctuary city and having a strong undocumented student movement, the undocumented can not partake in the scholarship.
The free-tuition scholarship program, included in the new state budget - which once seemed like an impossible goal, but is now approaching quickly in the rearview mirror - has local and national residents wondering, what does this mean?
Other parts of the Assembly plan would eliminate tuition for first-year full-time community college students, preserve the Middle Class Scholarship, support efforts to keep UC and Cal State tuitions from rising and increase access to college savings accounts. If they didn't, just how much will this scholarship program cost NY taxpayers, many of whom paid their own way through college and are struggling to pay off student loans?
Encouraging innovative college funding such as the FASNY grant and Excelsior Scholarship will hopefully spur lawmakers, politicians and college administrators to find more ways to make higher education accessible for everyone.
"Today, college is what high school was-it should always be an option even if you can't afford it", Gov. Cuomo said in a statement on the program's inclusion in the state budget.
"It will help a slice of middle-class students, but it's only a slice", he said. It's likely to draw more students to the state's public colleges and away from private colleges. Tuition at SUNY/CUNY colleges ranges for two-to-four years from $4,350-$6,470.
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Students who receive free tuition and then leave the state for an advanced degree won't have to pay the money back assuming they return to NY once they complete their graduate studies. But in the long run, Webber said, this could end up backfiring if other states do the same and keep their workers from moving to NY. "I think it's reasonable for them to want that to happen in a state that paid for (the students') education". "Without adequate state funding, CUNY can not support the smaller classes, expanded faculty mentorship, improved advisement, and increased support services that are proven to improve graduation rates", she said.
"I'm very concerned about that, and I think the cost difference between those who have to pay and those don't will cause students to look around", she said. The Daily Signal produced a video with a breakdown of how much "free college" in NY is going to cost taxpayers. A SUNY spokeswoman said the school does not expect to see any revenue losses under the Excelsior Scholarship because of that protection. The legislation, which the governor signed on Wednesday, makes an exception for students who want to pursue a higher degree out of state.
And, according to a SUNY spokeswoman, 83 percent of public college graduates already remain in the state after they receive their degree anyway, so the potential number of students affected by the residency requirement would be small. Since then tuition has steadily mounted, but remains below that in many other states.
Only 26.1 percent of Ohio's population holds a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the 89.1 percent that have a high school education or equivalent.
There are other concerns about the program's impact. The program begins this fall and will be phased in over three years.
"This is a killer", said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a leading expert on college affordability and a professor at Temple University. In 2017 this is the vast, vast majority of all students, especially poorer students.
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