Special Reports

New York Approves Tuition-Free Public Higher Education, Get To Know The Catch [VIDEO]


Over the weekend, the New York state legislature approved legislation making tuition for all public four-year colleges in the state free. The move is said to be a part of the state budget agreement.

The Washington Post reported earlier that any New York resident accepted into a four-year course to any New York community college or university must earn less than $125,000 per year. According to a Tweet by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, the plan for college free tuition for families earning less than $125,000 shows the difference that a responsible government makes.

The budget was approved on Saturday by the Assembly and was put to a vote and approved Sunday evening. By this move, it effectively made New York the first state to make public colleges and universities free for middle-class students.

To qualify for the program, aside from the qualifying annual income bracket, a student would have to meet certain class loads and GPA restrictions. Additionally, the benefit does not cover room and board.

However, there is a catch attached to the state's initiative, which was approved last Sunday: Students must stay in the state after graduation or risk paying back the state benefit. The rule not initially part of the free college tuition proposal when it was presented last January, however, it was inserted during the final negotiations with lawmakers.

The provision was added so as to protect the state's investment in a student's education by making sure they do not jump states after taking advantage of free education, said Gov. Cuomo. The length of stay is commensurate to the many years as they received the benefit, ABC News reported. If in the event the graduate decides to move and work in another state, they must repay the money, which will then be converted to a loan.

Several educators view the initiative in a positive light. Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York, cites the new policy is extraordinary and will attract student to community college. Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, states that there will be a great impact at community colleges; she views the initiative as a move to the precipice of a new era.

However, there are those who are also wary of the initiative. One such advocate and a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University Sara Goldrick-Rab called the provision extortion, bad public policy, and a trick. Trying to tether students to states will not work, the group said. They believe graduates will naturally gravitate towards following lucrative jobs elsewhere.

Marc Cohen, president of the SUNY Student Assembly, stated that public higher education should be free and with no strings attached. Accordingly, they would not want a recent SUNY and CUNY graduate to be obligated to pay for taking a great job out of state.

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