Free college tuition on the horizon

April 08, 2017 06:15 PM

A week after the New York state budget deadline, there is a deal, and included in the one-hundred fifty three billion dollar budget deal is free tuition for state and city colleges.

If this passes, New York State will be the first in the nation to offer free college tuition to middle-class students.

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Free SUNY and CUNY college tuition has been hotly debated over the last few months in Albany. Governor Andrew Cuomo says college is what high school was and it should always be an option even if you can't afford it. 

“Every child will have the opportunity that education provides.”

The Governor says at least 80% of New York state's families will benefit from the “Excelsior Scholarship”  -- a plan for free tuition at state colleges that will be open to families making up to 125 thousand dollars  a year.

Students attending the SUNY assembly spring conference today tell News10NBC they are looking forward to making this plan a reality.

“It's an outstanding thought that these students have something to look forward to. That they don't any longer have to worry about the financial barrier to achieving a higher education,” says Mark Cohen, President of SUNY Assembly and a SUNY Board Trustee.

The projected cost would be 163 million dollars and Cuomo says the funding would come out of the education budget. 

Republicans, though, still want more detail on how it will be paid for.

“Certainly that's what we're evaluating. Obviously what's going to be the cost to the tax payers?” 

Assemblyman Brian Kolb says this has always been his sticking point since the governor made his proposal.

“Nothing should be free. We can increase tuition assistance program. We can make graduate students eligible. We can change the income eligibility requirements cut having something absolutely free i think a lot of the tax payers I’ve heard from that's not acceptable.”

The vice president for SUNY student assembly says they support anything that expands access to affordable college education.

Although a tuition free college will take away a huge chunk from students' financial burdens, there are still other issues left to deal with.

“They struggle with associated fees, textbooks, room and board. It's really unfortunate that the conversation is so put on tuition just because there are so many other aspects of college life that make it not affordable for students,” says Bridget Doyle, Vice President for SUNY Student Assembly.

In order to cover the "prohibitive cost of textbooks", the governor's office says the budget will also have $8 million dollars for open educational resources, which include e-books provided to CUNY and SUNY students.


Nina Porciuncula

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