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Apr 13 2017
by Natalie Dahl

5 New York College Students' Opinions on Free College Tuition in NY

By Natalie Dahl - Apr 13 2017

On April 8, thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York became the first state to pass legislation that offers free college tuition at two and four year public colleges. Starting this fall, students from families making up to $100,000 per year would qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship. By the third year of this program, that number would increase to $125,000 per year. In addition to that, in order to qualify for the scholarship, students must graduate on time. Meaning, if a student applies to a four year program, they are expected to finish in four years. After graduation, students would also have to remain and work in the state for as many years as they used the scholarship to fund their education. If they choose to leave the state, the whole grant becomes a loan, though there are talks that there will be provisions for students who have extenuating circumstances, such as students who choose to join the military after graduation. This provision was put in place to gain support from Republicans in that state and to ensure that New York tax payers benefit from the skilled workforce that would come out of this. 

Fresh U caught up with five students from SUNY Binghamton, one of the numerous four year state schools in New York, to learn their opinions on the new free college initiative.

  • Erica H., Freshman, pre-med track

"I am conflicted. I think it’s going to encourage more people to go to school because money is often a really big factor in deciding whether or not someone goes to school. But, if it’s such a great idea, why wasn’t it implemented sooner?"

Tyler B., Freshman, communications major

"My first thoughts were finally, and then I noticed that it doesn’t apply to me, and it probably doesn’t apply to a lot of families. So overall, my basic idea on the issue is that it needs more work. But I like that we’re the first state to do it."

Natasha S., Freshman, undeclared

"I’m a huge Bernie Sanders fan and I know Cuomo did this because he realizes a lot of young people are 'feeling the Bern,' which is nice that he’s not totally oblivious to young people, because many politicians ignore young people because they are the least likely to vote. Whether he realizes young people are going to be the next generation to carry the torch so to speak or he just wants votes is another story. Either way, I think it’s definitely a good idea because as any student knows, college is so expensive — now more than ever before. What I don’t like is how it’s going to be phased in gradually. I’m middle class, but not as middle class as some other students might be. I appreciate that I do qualify, but not until my college career is almost over to the point where it doesn’t benefit me as much. It sucks because a lot of current students won’t receive the full benefits of the initiative and they’ll still be struggling to pay for school if they’re middle class, but not lower middle class. A lot of people are middle of the road where money is definitely a strain but not to the point where they live paycheck to paycheck. I’m glad it helps people who are forced to stretch money to paper thin amounts to get by. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for every dollar I can save."

Justin F., Freshman, English major

"My idea is that I am very interested to see where tuition free will go once it's implemented. It can either create problems or help everyone."

Samantha R., Freshman, biology major

"This plan is very expensive. A higher education is a privilege and isn't something that should be free. I fear this will soon devalue a college degree. The older generation constantly complains about us college kids being handed everything. This is a prime example. You need to work for what you want. It's possible."

The Excelsior Scholarship will be a model for other states who might wish to implement a program similar to Governor Cuomo's. Whether or not it succeeds will greatly influence public opinion that could bring the country either closer or farther to implementing a program like this nationally. For the sake of all of the students who could greatly benefit from the Excelsior Scholarship, I hope it does succeed.  

  • Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of those who shared their opinion.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Natalie Dahl - Ramapo College

Natalie is a sophomore at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is majoring in nursing and is passionate about politics, as well as social justice. When she is not studying, she can be found binge watching Friends and The Office on Netflix.

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