Cuomo and Sanders team up to announce free-college proposal
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal Tuesday to provide free college to middle-and-low income families alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, who championed the idea during his presidential bid.
“It’s once again New York leading the way, the way we did on raising the minimum wage, the way we did on paid family leave, the way we did on passing marriage equality, the we did on gun safety,” Cuomo exclaimed, touting his record as the state’s liberal-leaning governor before arguing that in order to “be competitive globally, we have to have the best-educated workforce.”
Consequently, he continued, such an ideal “means we have to have college for every child, man or woman, who wants to attend,” garnering the praise of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who called Cuomo’s proposal “revolutionary.”
The new plan, known as the Excelsior Scholarship, would allow any student accepted into a state or city university of New York to attend free of charge, on the condition that their family’s income falls below $125,000 annually, according to The New York Times.
The free-college program would also apply to the state’s two-year community colleges, bringing the price-tag for the proposal up to an estimated $163 million annually with an expected start-date of fall 2019.
While Cuomo and his administration recognized that the annual cost will fluctuate, depending on year-to-year enrollment, some reports have benchmarked the price at as much as $232 million annually, with the city’s own Independent Budget Office (IBO) cautioning that a free-college program may not have a demonstrably positive effect on graduation rates that supporters like Cuomo envision.
“For the city, the benefits of eliminating tuition for community students are dependent on how successful the program is at raising the very low current graduation rates,” IBO Director Ronnie Lowenstein remarked.
Additionally, The Times Union reports that the state is facing a revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year, which Cuomo acknowledged in December when he said that “the budget is going to be tighter than in past years.”
Announcing the plan at a Tuesday event at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Cuomo estimated that nearly one million New York families would be eligible to partake, leaving it unclear how many families would actually be ineligible, since the median New York household income in 2013 was $50,003—a number that falls well below Cuomo’s threshold.
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