New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at an event at LaGuardia Community College in New York in January.
Legislators in the state of New York just pulled off the biggest free college plan ever attempted in US.
Free college at last! New York legislators have passed a bill that will offer free tuition at both two- and four-year state institutions. That means 64 campuses and 1.3 million students could see free tuition this fall. Yet, as you can imagine, there are stipulations.
The Excelsior Scholarship – as it's formally known – is eligible to students who come from families making up to $100,000 for the first year, and by the third year the cut off will increase to $125,000. Students also must complete a two-year program within two years and a four-year program within four years. Following graduation, students must stay in the state of New York for the same duration of time as the program they completed (i.e., two years for a two-year program and four years for a four-year program). This is so that taxpayers can benefit from a better educated and better paid workforce. If the student decides to move then the tuition retroactively becomes a loan.
Despite the existence of similar programs in other states, the law is a big step forward and is the largest free tuition program in the US. The Excelsior Scholarship is estimated to cost $163 million per year. To compare, in 2016 the State of Colorado generated $200 million per year in legal marijuana tax revenue.
Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, notes that tuition is just part of the overall cost of attending school but nonetheless calls the Excelsior a "wonderful opportunity".
Others are more skeptical, like Sara Goldrick-Rab, an avid "free college" advocate, who thinks that the Excelsior will be less than successful. She said on Twitter, "as someone who has worked on almost every free college bill, I promise @NYGovCuomo won't be remembered well if he keeps this provision." And she followed that by saying, "Free college is about moving beyond a complex, untrustworthy aid system. This move perpetuates existing problems."
What are your thoughts? Do you want to see free tuition? Let us know in the comments below!