By: Kevin Megnath
On January 3, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a plan to fully cover the cost of tuition for college students in low to middle income households. New Yorkers who are accepted to state or city universities, and whose household earns less than $125,000 per year are qualified to receive this government aid.
This plan resembles the proposed policies of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who appeared with Mr. Cuomo at LaGuardia Community College to discuss the plan. If the plan passes the state legislature, New York will join Tennessee and Oregon as the only states in the country to offer free tuition to students of community colleges. Not only that, New York will be the first state in the union to offer this program to four-year colleges. Senator Sanders also hopes to expand the idea of tuition-free colleges to middle-class families nationwide and believes that New York’s adoption of the plan will convince other states to get onboard.
Current tuition costs average roughly $6,470 (and $16,320 for students on campus) per year for SUNY schools, and $6,330 per year for CUNYs. According to Cuomo’s administration, the proposal is estimated to cost the state $163 million per year. Governor Cuomo expects this plan to roll out as soon as this fall, and hopes that every qualifying family will be able to receive this benefit by 2019. He projects that 80% of New York families are entitled to free college tuition.
However, there is some opposition towards Governor Cuomo’s proposed system. Opponents argue that free college tuition has little to no effect on New York households. While families would be entitled to free tuition, students will still need to pay approximately $14,500 in other fees. The costs of commuting to school, boarding, food, and other expenditures are not covered by Cuomo’s plan. Additionally, tuition-free college is limited to only full-time students, meaning many students who attend college part-time are not entitled to this benefit.
Nonetheless, Governor Cuomo still intends to roll out his plan as soon as possible. Stated as a “revolutionary idea for higher education” by Bernie Sanders, the establishment of tuition-free college in New York and across the United States would be groundbreaking.