Friday, 20 October, 2017

Free college tuition plan brings praise, concern

NYS Assemblyman James Skoufis View Slideshow NYS Assemblyman James Skoufis View Slideshow
Craig Ferguson | 18 April, 2017, 02:48

Those who voiced concerns about the Excelsior Scholarship program during budget hearings this winter questioned whether SUNY campuses can handle an influx of new students without hiring new professors, expanding classrooms or increasing maintenance and construction budgets. Those in favor of free tuition systems have been waging war against the establishment ever since. "But there's going to be a lot of fine print, something hidden that's going to come back and bite the person in the butt later".

Beginning this fall, New York's Excelsior Scholarship program will be available to residents seeking a spot in the state's two- and four-year colleges and whose earnings top out at up to $100,000 annually, with other limiting factors.

But Goldrick-Rab, the author of the recent book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, called the provision that students must live and work in NY a "poison pill" by limiting mobility, among other factors.

But since passing the budget last week, the details of the program are giving us pause. It was, after all, a NY newspaper editor, Horace Greeley, who advised, "Go West!".

The goal of our P-TECH program is to prepare students to enter the growing health care sector with the education and skills necessary to meet the demands of one of the region's largest health care system employers. Instead, he pays for tuition only at state schools. "There are so many things that we could have done". While the income limit will increase over several years, a student's family income can not exceed $100,000 for those who enroll this fall, followed by $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019.

Many European countries, like Germany, already offer free college, and they do so for all students regardless of family income level.

Some graduate students and students finishing their undergraduate degree this year, including graduate student Melinda Fatiga, were hoping for a forgiveness plan. But it also includes the controversial residency requirement, which has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum.

At SUNY Plattsburgh, 40.6 percent of students graduated in four years. "Senate Republicans insisted on student responsibility and accountability measures, like a minimum GPA and a requirement that graduates live in NY for at least four years after they graduate", said Senator Young.

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So while there is something to be said about giving students an economic incentive to graduate in four years, even under the best of circumstances most students are coming up short. "... This year was nothing short of a resounding and historic victory for students in the State University of NY". What this policy says is that wealthier students who benefit from subsidized tuition incur no obligation to stay in state after college but less affluent students who receive Excelsior scholarships of some amount would be limited in making their future plans. "This is seen as a way to ensure that NY taxpayers reap their investment in the form of a more educated workforce".

P-TECH has great value, and we see this every day in our students' learning experience. "But there are over 800,000 in state and city schools", Skoufis said.

His office estimates that by 2024, 3.5 million jobs in NY will require an associate's degree or higher.

The second-term Democrat appeared with Clinton to celebrate passage of one of his budget's major achievements, a first-in-the nation free tuition plan for students from middle-class families. They will be punished for trying to better themselves.

"It will help a slice of middle-class students, but it's only a slice", he said.

"Today, college is what high school was - it should always be an option even if you can't afford it", Cuomo said about the legislation, called the Excelsior Scholarship Program.

Goldrick-Rab said the restriction betrays students by changing the narrative from broad free college tuition to a workforce development initiative.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Dan Gealt, George Nelson and Jane Kana.

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