The plan would cover tuition at public colleges for students whose families earn $125,000 or less. Then the state threw a curve: Following graduation, students would have to stay and work in the state for as many years as they received this assistance, or they'd have to repay it.
Educational advocates also criticize the governor for going on a so-called "victory tour" since passing the Excelsior Program because of the lack of comprehensive higher education funding available for all students. This roughly 30 percent reduction still leaves the vast majority of students, with families in NY having a median annual income of about $60,000, scrambling to meet expenses.
It might not surprise you that some students 18 News spoke to at Corning Community College were happy about the news.
But higher list price tuition would also tax low-income students' Pell Grants by leaving less in federal and state need-based aid to pay their non-tuition costs.
It's possible. The state budget allows SUNY and CUNY to raise their tuition by $200 a year for the next three years.
But there are questions whether more should be done to help those students pay for the many college costs beyond tuition. However, for now, critics have been questioning the Excelsior Scholarship program's finer points.
The New York Times endorsed both Cuomo and his father, Mario Cuomo for governor during their multiple election campaigns. Not to get too heady on you, but Malcolm X once said that "educations is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today".
Here's how the system will work, and why it won't create much access to college. Students also have to be enrolled full time.
"Tuition is only about one-third the cost of attendance, so the $6,370 that the Excelsior Scholarship covers is critical, but it's really important to remember that it won't take students all the way", Ms. Esterberg said.
Long Island has 112,890 families with college-age students, with 55.6 percent eligible. Will New York hire administrative staff to keep tabs on students or depend on the honor system?
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And despite some misgivings mentioned by lawmakers and others, she said: "I have been impressed by the political will to be flexible and try this on".
"When I look at our student population, many of them stay in the state because it's diverse state economically; it's a diverse state regionally", Ms. Esterberg said. The Daily Signal produced a video with a breakdown of how much "free college" in NY is going to cost taxpayers.
What if an Excelsior scholarship recipient wins a Rhodes or Marshall scholarship for graduate study overseas, or is moved by patriotism to enlist in the American army in wartime, or wants to join the Peace Corps, or falls in love with a student from somewhere else? According to the Department of Education, degree holders earn about $25,000 more a year than high school graduates.
Still, we envisage some problems that this program could pose to the state.
"There's a higher investment in higher education, so more families will have the opportunity to be able to afford going to college", Mr. Szafran said. Since then tuition has steadily mounted, but remains below that in many other states.
So obvious are the limitations of Cuomo's plan that even the New York Times, after welcoming the proposal last January, in an editorial this past weekend placed an asterisk next to it, referring to the governor's "Free* College Plan", seeking to place some distance between it and this fraudulent scheme. As a result, poor- and middle-class families often don't adequately prepare their children for the demands of college-level education.
Students from nearby counties in MI (such as Monroe County) can study at UT at in-state tuition rates due to an agreement between the two states. Even at its four-year colleges, 60 percent would be ineligible.
The best solution would be a national program like the one proposed a year ago by Vermont Sen. The higher up the income scale you go, until the ceiling, the more you benefit.
To set the record straight: The opponents of New York's free college plan are not predominantly Republican - not unless all the policy experts I follow on Twitter have suddenly shifted to the right without me realizing it.