Will free college offer catch fire? NY details raise doubts

Will free college offer catch fire? NY details raise doubts

In what is being billed as a first-in-the-nation pilot program, students from lower-income and middle class families are being offered the chance to attend New York's public colleges and universities for free.

NY is the first state to offer free tuition at both four-year institutions and community colleges.

This is the first free comprehensive state college program. And since the state is backfilling whatever isn't covered by federal Pell grants, it only amounts to an investment of $165 million on the part of the state, which has 64 pubic campuses and 1.3 million full-time students. The report found that the policy change could save the state $159 million and produce 490 more bachelor's degrees each year. The program won't cover room and board, however, and students must be enrolled full time and maintain sufficient grades and residency requirements. Otherwise, they'll be forced to pay the money back.

Long Island has 112,890 families with college-age students, with 55.6 percent eligible. Making Excelsior grants into last-dollar scholarships will sharply reduce the progressivity of the plan, as the lowest-income students are most likely to receive aid from other sources and will thus qualify for less in Excelsior Scholarships. At the City University of New York (CUNY), fees are an average of $475, but add on another close to $12,000 if you're not a commuter for housing and food.

Bruce Johnstone, a former SUNY chancellor, cautioned against raising expectations too much. And there must be a full commitment to fund aid sufficiently to help those students who can not reasonably pay that tuition. But he also presides over a state, like all states, where many students don't complete college and where many are unprepared for the information economy. The tuition plan specifically will cost about $163 million, or 4.6 percent of the 7.5 billion for higher education. Students that wish to pursue graduate degrees immediately after college must return to NY after their graduate studies are finished to fulfill the work requirement outlined in the bill. If they break that commitment, the tuition grant becomes a loan that must be repaid. Ideas for the plan were first announced on January 3 during Cuomo's first state of the state address at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration are spending the week touting a new program providing free college tuition for numerous state's students.

The scholarship is also available only to students who take at least 30 credits in a school year, which means part-time students are ineligible. The Governor's Office estimates that 84 percent of SUNY and CUNY graduates now remain in NY after earning a degree.

Tramuta also stated that had the bill been implemented earlier, a total of 2,500 students would have benefited from the Excelsior Scholarship for the 2016-17 school year. 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 am so grateful to my friend and our governor for taking this idea and not just talking about, but actually making it happen for the young men and women of our state", she said.

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But even as higher education experts applaud the concept of free tuition, they question finer points of New York's plan and whether it's a model that should be replicated elsewhere.

Fifth, Cuomo's law threatens to destroy some of New York's private colleges.

Sophomore Nathaniel Bates said free tuition is a good idea. Cuomo's press release doesn't say how this requirement will be enforced. "Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you take off and you move to California?"

In a conference call on Tuesday, Mujica and Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo's chief of staff, expressed confidence that the program would increase graduation rates.

But the requirements don't end with graduation. "Anytime you do something big, there are the naysayers who come out of the woodwork to criticize it". Time will tell, but I believe that this is a critical step for New York State, and hopefully other lawmakers across the country will follow this initiative as well.

Cuomo has always emphasized that his plan is created to help middle-class families-from his news release announcing the proposal in January to a post on Sunday on Medium, a blogging website. What an inspiring accomplishment that shows what a caring government can do for its people.

"This has all the earmarks of something that was simply reverse engineered from the headline the governor wanted to see", McMahon said. "He's gotten that headline-'First in the nation.' Now we have to consider details and confront the possible consequences".

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