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Tuition Free New York City Colleges

Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into effect a law that provides free tuition to public colleges and universities in New York State. The requirements and stipulations makes me question whether “free” college tuition has seen achieved or if it remains out of reach. Any progress towards this goal is appreciated, but upon reading the fine print, I realize free college may be falsely advertised.

Students with family incomes (or individual incomes) below $125,000 annually and are residents of New York State are applicable to receive the benefits of this program. A New York State resident is defined by the terms “resided in the state for twelve continuous months prior to the term for which award is sought.” Essentially, this is a widely accepting scholarship fund, the Excelsior Scholarship, and does not actually cover all the costs of tuition. The intention is moreso to fill the gaps that other scholarship and the college’s gift aid does not cover.

The New York Times published an article called “New York Today- Free College, but with Caveats” by Alexandra Levine that stated the scholarship would cover less than half of the annual cost of the college/university. “The total cost — tuition, fees, and room and board — for four years at a State University of New York college is about $83,000 — roughly $21,000 per year or $10,000 per semester. This program would pay about $26,000. Families would still need to shoulder nearly $60,000 to send a student to college.”

The recipient of the scholarship would need to take 30 credits “per calendar year” , and must live/work in New York for the same amount of time that they received the scholarship (essentially four years.) If the student does not stay in New York then they’d have to repay all of the money. Even if they don’t live in New York for one year, that year would need to be repaid, just like student loans. Exceptions may apply like military service or an extenuating hardship.

An applicant is not acceptable if they graduated high school late or will take longer than four years to finish due to part-time jobs or other circumstances that prevent them from being a full-time student. There is also no clear cut requirement for GPA of high school students and just requires “good academic standing”.

As a recipient of various scholarship and gift aid, I find the requirements rather fatal if breached. If a student wants to avoid becoming trapped in student loan debt by applying to this scholarship, they’d find themselves forced into remaining in New York State for a total of eight years. They would need to maintain a residence and job in order for their scholarship not to become loans. I appreciate the steps Clinton and Governor Cuomo have taken to assist middle-class families, but they should not stop working to pat themselves on the back just yet.

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