BY TRONE DOWD
In what was quite a busy start to the new year for New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, Tuesday marked a new beginning for future college students in Queens.
Standing alongside former democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Cuomo announced that New York state wants to pursue free tuition for all in-state colleges, including two and four year CUNY and SUNY schools. The rule would apply to all New York native students living in households that make less than $125,000 a year.
While both the CUNY and SUNY systems in particular once saw truly affordable rates, that has changed significantly in the last two decades. Especially for those paying out of pocket, climbing tuition rates have continued to deter students from pursuing the necessary education needed to survive in today’s modernized economy.
Cuomo aligning himself with Sanders was an excellent move. During 2016’s highly competitive Democratic primary, Sander’s ambitious plans to tackle the student debt, which has reached an unprecedented $1.2 trillion across 43 million students according to the Associated Press, spoke to Americans young and old. In fact, it forced the hand of his opponent Hillary Clinton and Republicans to acknowledge and address the issue that was previously low on the list of priorities.
Local officials seem to agree. Unfortunately for many middle class New Yorkers, gone are the days of relying on a high school diploma for career opportunities. Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) appropriately called the governor’s proposal “Common Sense 101,” noting that the value of Bachelor’s Degree is now the standard if one wishes to live comfortably.
“College is now a virtual prerequisite to a middle-class life,” Lancman said. “But even SUNY and CUNY tuition is beyond the reach of too many New Yorkers, or they find themselves drowning in student debt just for the opportunity to move up the economic ladder.”
State Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and heads of both York and Queens College have told the Press of Southeast Queens that they are all are in agreeance with Lancman. We have no doubt that if this proposal is approved in the coming years, New York State will find themselves pulling ahead of other states hesitant to make such a bold step toward affordable and equitable education for all.
New York State is positioning themselves on the right side of history. Investing in the future should be one of the top priorities of the entire nation. By taking the burden of high tuition costs off a large portion of young middle-class New Yorkers, the state is opening new opportunities that so many hardworking youngsters would not have otherwise. In the years to come, a generation of parents who spent most of their post-college adult lives paying off loans will be able to sleep at night knowing their children can pursue their dreams without the pay wall that once hindered them.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123 email@example.com or @theloniusly