New York democaratic governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that college education will be tuition free for students from middle-class background. This, however, is subject to conditions. Students can only gain the benefits of this initiative if they live and work in the state after they graduate.
The initiative was brought forward for students under the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (SUNY) systems from families earning less than $ 125,000 a year. This makes nearly 940,000 families in New York eligible for free public college tuition in two and four year colleges in the state, according to reports.
Students who accept the “Excelsior Scholarship” have to work within the state of New York for the same amount of years as the year that they have taken the benefit of the scheme (commonly four years). Those who choose to work in a different state in this time period have to pay back the whole tuition amount in the form of a loan. The governor said that this was done to ensure that the free tuition is not taken advantage of.
“Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and you move to California? The concept of investing in you and your education is that you’re going to stay here and be an asset to the state. If you don’t want to stay here, then go to California now, let them pay for your college education,” Cuomo told state editorial writers.
The criteria to stay in New York has come under criticism on the point that it undercuts the promise of free tuition in case the students are not made aware of this condition before accepting the scholarship. Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab said that students who would want to pursue better job opportunities outside of the state will face a “nasty shock” if they suddenly have to pay for the education which they thought was free.
“It’s absolutely bait and switch. You entice people with something they really, really need and then you penalize them if they can’t find a decent job and have to leave,” she said.
“We took the governor’s original plan and made it better, by requiring students to maintain a certain GPA and to live and work in New York after they graduate,” Senate Republican leadership spokesperson Scott Reif said. The state officials have also announced that students who sought the scholarship but have to leave for military service will be accommodated.
The scholarship has a further condition for students who accept the scholarship but pursue their graduate courses elsewhere. Such students will not need to pay back the “free” tuition as long as they return to New York after completing their studies.