New York State recently became the first in the nation to pass legislation that would offer free tuition for students at the state’s public colleges and universities.
The Excelsior Scholarship, which was made a legislative priority by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the budget season and passed by the state legislature, would provide tuition-free education for students from families making up to $125,000 per year.
For years, free tuition at the city’s public universities was a foundation for education in New York City. In the 1970s, growth and budget shortfalls resulted in free college education becoming paid education, although CUNY’s costs are reasonable compared to private colleges.
The governor’s new scholarship is undoubtedly a great step toward ensuring that there are more opportunities for New Yorkers to obtain college diplomas without taking on financially paralyzing debt. In today’s economy, a college education is increasingly necessary to break into many industries and Excelsior will enable significantly more state residents to do so.
The scholarship is not without flaws. To qualify, students must attend full time and be on track to graduate within two to four years, depending on their program of choice. In a perfect world, this would act as a good incentive that would force students to focus. However, some low-income students must defer their studies or enroll as part-time students in order to work and, therefore, wouldn’t likely qualify for the scholarship.
But the Excelsior Scholarship is, on the whole, a great step toward making higher education more affordable and young adults in New York State better prepared to compete in today’s economy.