Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced and signed into law his “Excelsior Scholarship,” known better as his tuition-free college plan. The plan allows families making up to $100,000 a year to send their children to any of New York’s state colleges tuition-free for up to four years. By 2019, the threshold will be raised to $125,000.
While the plan is not perfect, I believe it is a great first step in the right direction. Having public colleges be tuition-free evens the playing field for all Americans to reach the goals they aspire to. Insurmountable student debt has been crushing young Americans for far too long. More than ever before, high school students find themselves making college choices based solely on money more.
In some cases, that choice involves simply not attending college at all to avoid the rising costs. But a college diploma is necessary in today’s society. A college degree is the equivalent of what a high school diploma was just a few decades ago. Students know that many of them cannot get hired at the jobs they desire without that expensive piece of paper. Therefore, students continue to bite the bullet and take on these massive piles of student loan debt.
New York has now become the first state to attempt to lift that burden for future students, with other states likely to follow suit in years to come. Over 940,000 families in the state of New York will be eligible for the plan starting in the fall of 2017. Although critics have said the scope of the plan is too small and should be expanded, you need to start somewhere. Of course, the goal of the state should be to help every single student who needs it, but helping some is better than helping none.
Once the plan has been in place and its flaws have been exposed, an upgraded plan can be put forth to fix the issues and expand to help more families. The new legislation is good for families and a good start for the future of education in the United States. The future workforce will be educated as high level jobs are created, and the next generation will be the most educated ever.
But what does it mean for private institutions, such as Hofstra? The majority of Hofstra’s student body is from New York, which could shift drastically as students who would normally choose to pay the extra price instead go to state schools for free. The makeup of Hofstra’s population will probably change in the coming years to reflect the mindset of potential students worried about costs. Of course, there will still be a good number of New Yorkers who have the means or the desire to go to private universities, so Hofstra and other private institutions around the state should not be too worried.
In the end, this legislation is helping a large number of people and hurting nobody. Sure, New Yorkers may end up having to pay a few extra dollars in taxes in the future, but it will mean that their children and grandchildren will be able to get the education they need without paying an arm and a leg for it. Education should be a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it. New York has gotten the ball rolling; now it’s up to the rest of the country to emulate plans of their own.
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