NY makes tuition free, but students must stay after college

In a major victory for the movement to improve access to higher education, NY is set to become the only state that offers free tuition at four-year colleges.

The $153 billion proposal will make tuition at public colleges and universities free for students from families making $125,000 or less.

With similar free community college programs already in place in Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota, New York's plan to extend tuition coverage to four-year universities builds upon the college accessibility efforts championed by Sen.

The budget also includes provisions allowing the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft to expand upstate, and raises the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. As a result, many low-income students will still need loans to cover expenses such as room and board, textbooks and school fees, which can cost thousands per year.

The Excelsior Scholarship, approved over the weekend as part of the state budget, would cover full-time students in the State University of ny system, which totals 64 campuses and 1.3 million students. Award recipients attending community college now have to remain in NY for two years after graduation, while those at state universities must stay for four years.

The Republican-controlled State Senate was against the measure, but lawmakers were able to reach an agreement. "It is unconscionable that the state legislature passed this massive corporate welfare program at a time when we are facing draconian federal budget cuts, especially when study after study, and eviction after eviction case, shows 421a produces little affordable housing and instead leads to gentrification and deregulating stabilized apartments at alarming levels", said Delsenia Glover with the Alliance for Tenant Power. During the talk, Cuomo announced his plan to make public schools in NY tuition free for middle-class families. Under the deal, young offenders would no longer be incarcerated in adult prisons and jails but would go to juvenile facilities where they could receive additional rehabilitation and treatment. "Why do we have free public high school?"

Still, now that free public college is closer to being a reality, the cheerleading is accompanied by nitpicking among some college affordability advocates.

"We have a reputation of being financially stellar and I want to keep that reputation", he said.

Also part of the NY budget package is a proposal to stop the state from being a near total-outlier in one aspect: it would raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18. Following widespread complaints from last year's elections, Cuomo proposed changes, including early voting and automatic registration, but those weren't included in the final agreement either.

  • Larry Hoffman