New York sets example with free tuition for public schools: Low and middle-income college students can now save money in school

The Voice, Staff Writer

     To the relief of New York students and any student who is considering moving to New York, the state will be the first state to begin offering a tuition-free option for those in low-and-middle-income households and who want to go to college, hopefully starting the ball rolling in destroying the reality of college students everywhere.

     The stereotype of the broke college student–who thrives on cheap, 25 cent Ramen and drives a car with dubiously repaired taillights–is a reality for way too many students in America. It’s almost a rite of passage into the “real world” that adults always told us about when we were growing up to induce crippling anxiety whenever we hoped for a little uplift or help with anything. Going into your early and mid-20s with tens of thousands of debt and trying to pay it off with a less-than-crappy entry level job while simultaneously being expected to get married, have your first baby, buy a house or get an apartment and a car, and enter a career within the field or your undergrad degree has sent many a young person to early bankruptcy or, worse, to an early grave. Still millions of others are stuck paying back that debt for the next 20+ years of their lives, putting every other major dream on hold, and inadvertently contributing to the stereotype that young people are lazy and freeloading off their hardworking parents. We at The Voice, therefore, applaud those states where efforts are underway to reduce these burdens and reverse these stereotypes, and want to bring attention to the latest breakthrough for students.

     In an effort to combat this problem, New York will, starting this coming fall, offer the Excelsior Scholarship to full-time state university students whose families make 125,000 dollars or less annually, as a means to cover tuition costs. For in-state students, yearly cost to attend public university can amount to as much as 83,000 dollars for tuition, room, board, and other fees/supplies. The scholarship would carve out roughly 26,000 dollars from that cost a year for a family making 100,000 dollars, and more for families making less. By stacking this tuition-only scholarship on top of other scholarships, students could feasibly avoid loans, or have much smaller loans to cover their other expenses, assuming they choose to live on campus. If students were to live at home and commute, then most of their costs could be met with this and other scholarships. While we at The Voice see this as an amazing leap forward, it is also important to keep in mind the limits of this brand new legislation.

     The scholarship is only for full-time students who will be graduating in four years, and only for those who have been a New York resident for at least one year. So, non-traditional, part-time, or out-of-state students are ineligible, which make up a large portion of the students currently enrolled in the same colleges that this scholarship targets. It also limits students’ mobility after graduation by requiring the years of assistance be paid back as an employee in New York state, although there are no employment requirements other than staying in New York. The scholarship is also targeted primarily at middle-class and working-class families who make too much for most scholarships, but not enough to afford school. This leaves some of the poorest students, as well as those over the wealth cap, to utilize other financial aid to pay the insane prices. While we at The Voice don’t find this ideal, it’s definitely a good starting point.

Many critics are furious over the cost of the program, which is estimated to go as high as 163 dollars million in the third year, and which likely will be drawn through some sort of tax spread across the residents of the state. However, there are few points to consider with this. First, there are almost 400,000 millionaires who call the state home, and there are 93 billionaires, including President Trump and his family. And in New York City alone, there are thousands of high-end retailers and corporations which could afford a little extra in taxes. In fact, placing a slightly higher tax on earnings over one million dollars annually could supply nearly all of the money needed for the Excelsior Scholarship. This would not take into consideration the added income from young professionals who are working and plying their new trades in the state. By having students remain in New York, they can contribute to the state’s economy and pay taxes that will eventually go to a new round of Excelsior Scholarships. And even though some people think the students would be trapped if they had to live for up to four years anywhere in New York, a lot of nations that have free tuition have this same requirement for international students. So, we at The Voice don’t see that has much of a hassle.

     There are a lot of pros and cons with this legislation, and as the first state in the nation to do this for four-year schools, New York is the precedent for the rest of the country in considering how to go about initiating tuition-free college. This legislation is trial and error, and can be tweaked once it’s in place to compensate for any problems that arise. This scholarship is a stepping stone towards providing more students with a higher education, and if PA takes a page from New York’s book, then we may see a revitalization of our own universities as well as our economy. Our state is made up of mostly working and middle class families who would be in the income bracket that this scholarship targets, and by inducing students to take part-time jobs to cover other expenses or extra costs, and then remain in the state to reinvigorate the economy through new career fields, the benefits would eventually outweigh the costs.

     America needs to move forward and invest in education like other developed nations. We’re being left behind by leaps and bounds. As other nations invest in their students, America invests in bombs and guns and falls behind academically. We at The Voice want to invite American students to demand a better education at a better price. If we can get competitive pricing for cars or produce, then we ask, why not education too?

~ The Voice