Tuesday, January 3, 2017
The budget doesn't matter when politicians see potential voters. How about making colleges more economically efficient?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce Tuesday — along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — a plan to offer free tuition at city and state colleges to low- and middle-income New Yorkers.
Under the Excelsior Scholarship, anyone from a family earning less than $125,000 a year will be eligible for a free education at both two- and four-year colleges.
The funds will be earmarked for completing tuition payments by supplementing existing state and federal loan and grant programs, Cuomo administration officials said.
The governor hopes for a three-year rollout for the initiative beginning in the fall, though it will require legislative approval — a potential stumbling block as Cuomo and lawmakers have been at odds over a pay raise and other issues.
Sanders — a vocal champion of free college tuition— is expected to join Cuomo at a news conference at LaGuardia Community College.
Sanders, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, has railed against student debt, saying it heavily burdened young Americans.
It was unclear how the program would be financed, but the administration has said the state already provides almost $1 billion in support through its tuition assistance program. Those awards are capped at $5,165 and many of the grants are smaller.
The Cuomo administration estimates the program would permit 940,000 families with college-age children — or independent adults — to qualify.
The estimated costs of the scholarship program would be $163 million, though the administration said that figure depends on how many families participate.
Tuition at four-year State University of New York schools for state residents is $6,470. At two-year community colleges, the cost is $4,350. Costs for City University of New York schools are about the same.