Free tuition plan is positive step

On April 9, New York’s state legislature approved Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to provide free college tuition to New York residents who are full-time students and earn less than $100,000 annually. In 2018, the cap will increase to $110,000 and then $125,000 in 2019.

The plan is projected to help approximately 80 percent of New York families, according to NY.gov. However, the scholarship that was created to make college more accessible to the middle class may exclude the very people it was designed to aid, strict requirements should become more lenient to aid those it currently excludes.

In March, more than 30 members of the state’s Assembly signed a budget letter agreeing that the proposal should focus on the middle-class and suggested the scholarship should be available to students whose household income is $175,000 or less. According to the Assembly, with the current requirements, the project would benefit only 32,000 students, less than 5 percent of undergraduates, once fully implemented in fiscal year 2019-20.

Multiple income families, despite meeting the cut-off, may not be able to afford tuition due to the high cost of living in New York. This is a reality many middle-class Californian families can relate to.

The scholarship also requires students to take 30 units per year. However, this requirement does not take into account students who may work full-time. Also, the scholarship could be lost if a student takes a leave of absence of medical leave. This strict requirement needs to be changed to include students who may need special accommodations to continue their higher learning.

In the United States, 44.2 million Americans have student loan debt, a whopping $1.3 trillion in total. The average student loan borrower will graduate with at least a $26,000 debt. For college graduates ages 20 to 30, the average monthly payment on their student loans is $351, according to federalreserve.gov.

New York has taken a step to provide options for its millions of college students, and as wonderful as that may be, the program should aim higher. Other states should look to New York as an example, an implement a similar program themselves.

This story was originally published by The Campus Times.

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