Like any program that sounds too good to be true, this one comes with a few strings.
FILE - In this January 3, 2017 file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right and Vermont Sen. Students don't have to be native NY residents to obtain the free tuition.
"New York just became the first state in the nation to make tuition free for middle class students at both two- and four-year public colleges", reported CNN.
The final version of the Excelsior Scholarship contains the provisions Cuomo wanted.
The issue of making public higher education "free" should also be seen in the broader context of the continuing higher education policy debate in this country and the importance of finding solutions that meet the very real financial challenges that the sector faces.
On the plus side, "free tuition" sends an easily understood signal to over three-quarters of New York's families. That is 420,000 more jobs than 2014.
To Cuomo's credit, he has always been clear that the Excelsior Scholarship is created to help middle-class families too wealthy to qualify for federal and state aid but not wealthy enough to afford the cost of college.
The main caveat to the plan, however, is that students must continue to live and work in NY for up to four years after they graduate, otherwise they may be required to pay back the cost of tuition. Instead, sounding more like President Trump than the Democrats Clinton and Sanders that Cuomo said he wanted emulate, the governor took a swipe at the New York Times.
The new measure, called the Excelsior Scholarship, means that at CUNY's four-year and community colleges, the overall cost will drop from the $16,000 to $20,000 range to a range of about $10,000 to $20,000 per year. On April 9, the New York legislature passed "The Excelsior Scholarship" a bill stealing Stan Lee's favorite phrase and granting "free public college to" state residents.
Furthermore, what accountability is in place to ensure that students stay in the state once they graduate to avoid brain drain?
Senate Republicans also advocated for other additions to the Excelsior Scholarship, including a requirement that students complete at least 30 credit hours in an academic year and maintain an adequate grade point average. Each campus sets their own admissions requirements.
For some reason which I'm sure exists, our overlords decided that K-12 education would be police-enforced and mandatory, and any form of higher education strictly be left for those who whose parents have dealerships and legacies.
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The job market continues to change at a dramatic pace and demand for individuals with a certain level of college education is increasing.
"I hope it works", said Nicole Pitt, a 21-year-old biology major. The extra conditions tip the scale against the program and the students who might have benefited from it. The requirements had been part of the Start-Up NY program since it began three years ago. "If you don't want to stay here, then go to California now, let them pay for your college education".
New York City has 461,499 families with college-age students, with 84.3 percent eligible. This encompasses almost 80 percent of families in the state. Even at its four-year colleges, 60 percent would be ineligible. That component is vital, as it would provide an effective safety net for students whose families lack the necessary resources.
Well, the heavy-hitting politicians in the state of NY couldn't let San Fran be the only collectivist hodgepodge to mess with this bad idea. "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.
And there has already been much debate about a restriction added late in the negotiations that recipients live and work in the state for the number of years they receive the benefit.
"We look forward to further expanding our support of students and their families as a result of this budget agreement", Stanley said.
"What we have is a redundant and confusing tax savings plan, which takes a top-down approach that places too much authority with the county executive and ignores the proven ability of NY local governments to collaborate and share services for the benefit of NY taxpayers and municipalities", the association said in a statement. "But without increased public investment in CUNY, Excelsior can not achieve its full potential".
As part of the budget, lawmakers also approved a new tuition assistance program for students at private colleges and universities that offers up to $3,000 in tuition grants.
"Yet another year goes by without the DREAM Act going from bill to law", Stavisky said. If you are applying to 4-year degree granting institution you still need to apply and get in.
A program like this would be hard to implement in North Carolina since the state already subsidizes public universities at a high rate, Robinson said.
Without question, people who have reviewed the Excelsior program say it could aid thousands of people by making college more affordable for middle-class families who make as much as $125,000 annually by 2019.