New York Governor Proposes Free College Tuition

(Originally posted on January 5, 2017, from Affinity Magazine)

On Tuesday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York proposed a plan that will enable hundreds of thousands of middle- and low-income New Yorkers to enroll in a state college for free.

Cuomo pledged that tuition fees would be covered for college students who have been accepted into a New York state or city university, including 2-year community college if their family earns $125,000 or less a year. If Cuomo’s proposal goes further, New York will be following in the footsteps of states such as Tennessee and Oregon, who have implemented programs to cover the costs of community college.

New York currently has one of the lowest tuition rates in America. It is estimated that current full-time tuition at four-year State University of New York schools for residents is $6,470 and for two-year community colleges, the cost is $4,350. Full-time costs for City University of New York schools are about the same.

Cuomo’s plan would include four-year schools, including dozens of campuses that are part of the state university system, as well as the city’s university system. In addition, the state would complete students’ tuition payments by supplementing existing state and federal grant programs, which are essentially covering the balance, although it is reported that administration officials said some students could have their entire four-year education covered.

The Governor proposed his plan at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, whilst being accompanied by Senator Bernie Sanders, who called the plan, “a revolutionary idea for higher education.” Sanders also added that the plan “is a message that is going to provide hope and optimism for working-class families all across the state.”

Cuomo hopes that his plan can be implemented as soon as possible, with a three-year rollout beginning in the fall, with a $100,000 income limit, rising to $125,000 by 2019.

Currently, it is unclear how much exactly Cuomo’s plan will cost, but the administration estimated that the state’s annual outlay would be $163 million by 2019, however, this estimate will change depending on a number of people participating in this program. Around 400,000 students attend state or city universities full-time, but with a tuition-free system, this could increase the student population by 10 percent by 2019.

Cuomo stated, “This society should say, ‘We’re going to pay for college because you need college to be successful. And New York State — New York State is going to do something about it.”