NY governor proposes free tuition plan at state colleges

Andrew Cuomo announced their proposal to offer free college tuition to any students in NY state whose families make less than $125,000.

A cheering crowd at LaGuardia Community College welcomed Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who advocated for tuition-free college during his 2016 presidential campaign, and Bill Thompson, chairman of the City University of New York's Board of Trustees. Making college free was a huge pillar in Sanders' campaign previous year for the Democratic nomination, and it's clear that he still intends to make a difference in that regard.

But first, the New York State Assembly would need to vote on the program, and its prospects are uncertain.

Cuomo's proposal would have the program starting this fall. Almost two-thirds of NY students graduate with an average $29,320 in debt from four-year public and private universities, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. The average student graduates school with $40,000 in debt; it is estimated that student loan debt will reach $17 trillion by the year 2030.

"This is what college affordability is all about". The governor's office projects the costs for his free tuition program-known as the excelsior scholarship-would be $163 million a year.

"Our job is to encourage every person in this country to get all of the education they can, not to punish them for getting that education", said Sanders, a Brooklyn native. "I have always supported funding SUNY appropriately and worked with my colleagues in the assembly to hold the line on tuition increases to help keep college affordable".


New York's most prestigious universities - including Cornell, Columbia and New York University - are private and presumably would not be involved in the free tuition plan.

As it stands, in-state tuition at community colleges in NY pencils in at $4,350, while tuition at State University of NY schools is $6,470 for residents. "And today, what Governor Cuomo is proposing is a revolutionary idea for higher education and it's an idea that in time will reverberate not only throughout the state of NY throughout this country". Its backers hope it will become a model for others around the country.

While eye-popping tuition-and-fee costs at elite private institutions are often cited when people talk about rising student debt levels, public schools are much more important to the overall student debt story. Average household income in NY state is just under $60,000, according to the US Census Bureau.

The governor also reminded the audience that providing accessible college education would benefit America as a whole.

"College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success".


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