Sen. Sanders and Gov. Cuomo at LaGuardia Community College on Tuesday. Photo Courtesy of the Governor’s Office
BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
History was made on Tuesday at LaGuardia Community College as Governor Andrew Cuomo, United States Senator Bernie Sanders and former Comptroller Bill Thompson announced a proposed bill for the Excelsior Scholarship program, which will offer free tuition as early as fall 2017 at New York State or City universities for college students who come from families earning less than $125,000 a year.
“College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success,” said Cuomo. “This society should say, ‘If you need college, we’re going to pay for college because you should be successful.’ New York State is going to do something about it.”
Sanders, whose presidential campaign emphasized the importance of free college tuition and decrease in student debt, attended the conference in full support of the proposal.
“If the United States is to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world,” said Sanders. “With exploding technology, and with most of the good-paying jobs requiring more and more education, we need to make certain that every New Yorker, every Vermonter and every American gets all the education they need regardless of family income. In other words, we must make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle class and working families of our country.
That is what Governor Cuomo is fighting for here in New York and it’s something I strongly support. I urge New York legislators to pass this enormously important proposal and become a model for the rest of the nation.”
According to Sanders, public education in America should not only be provided free from kindergarten through high school, but should be free for higher education as well. He said if New York passes this law, other states will follow.
Although the Excelsior Scholarship program is expected to begin a three-year rollout this fall, the bill requires legislative approval. If approved, it would cost approximately $163 million and would be paid for by nearly $1 billon provided by the state through its tuition-assistance program.
Currently, State University of New York schools costs about $6,470 a semester at four-year schools and $4,350 at two-year schools, with the majority of City University of New York schools costing roughly the same.
“In today’s world, college has become not a privilege, but a necessary step for working individuals in all fields,” said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing). “Unfortunately, college comes with a price tag that few can afford without burdensome loans. The proposal presented by Governor Cuomo and supported by Senator Bernie Sanders is an important step toward equal access to higher education. While families who make less than $125,000 will be able to send their children to SUNY and CUNY schools for free, we must also ensure no hikes are implemented on students who are paying tuition to offset costs.”
The PRESS of Southeast Queens contacted some of our local institutions to hear their reactions to the governor’s announcement.
Queens College president Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, “The combination of high-quality and affordable education has long been a Queens College hallmark since its founding 80 years ago in 1937. We commend Governor Cuomo for seeking to make it possible for all qualified New Yorkers to earn college credentials that will prepare them for success in a highly competitive economy. For nearly 40 years, Queens College graduates benefited from a free tuition policy until its demise in 1976 during the New York City fiscal crisis. Our alumni repaid the investment in their futures many times over through taxes on their earnings, since the vast majority live or work in the metropolitan area. For the past 40 years, Queens College students and their families have paid tuition charges, albeit modest in comparison to other colleges and universities, subsidized in part by federal, state, city and private financial aid. The college looks forward to working with state officials in support of initiatives that further expand access to the best possible higher education.”
Dr. Marcia V. Keizs, president of York College, was also heartened by the announcement.
“The governor’s tuition-free proposal for qualifying CUNY students is welcome news,” said Keizs. “This is an idea whose time has come again and one that will benefit the families of the students we serve here at York College/CUNY, as most of our students will qualify for this tuition-free program, if enacted. We are hopeful that the legislature will look favorably on the proposal and that we can all work to implement this well-needed tuition-support plan in the near future. ”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org