Local students and colleges react to NY public education going tuition-free

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Members of the New York State Senate were back at the Capitol Sunday to finish voting on the state budget deal. Al agreement was announced Friday, one week after the deadline.

That budget agreement includes the Excelsior Scholarship, a first-of-its-kind program which would allow certain students to attend SUNY and CUNY colleges tuition-free.

Nearly 80% of middle-class families in New York State will be eligible for the scholarship, nearly 75% in the Capital Region.

UAlbany Sophomore Anthony De La Cruz says he is a little disappointed with the scholarship.

The program would allow families making $125,000 a year to send their kids to New York’s public colleges and universities tuition-free. But De La Cruz will not be eligible.

“My mom, she has three kids,” says De La Cruz. “It’s rough, with her salary, and paying for mortgages and cars.”

The program will be phased in over three years starting this fall. It will begin with families making $100,000 a year. Students will also have to meet certain course-load and GPA requirements to qualify.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and the Legislature on a budget agreement that includes a truly ground-breaking, first-in-the-nation tuition-free program in the Excelsior Scholarship together with a five-year tuition plan to ensure college costs are predictable and transparent for all SUNY students and their families.” – SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall and Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher 

Jordyn Jamal is also left out of the scholarship, as a sophomore at the College of Saint Rose, a private school.

“It would be nice if tuition was free for all colleges because I think education is important and you really shouldn’t put a price on that,” says Jamal.

Saint Rose’s President says the college is grateful for the funds offered through an enhanced tuition award included in the budget, $19 million, but says the amount won’t serve enough students.

Late Friday night, Governor Cuomo announced that he and the New York State Legislature agreed on a New York State Fiscal Year 2018 budget. While we are still waiting on final details and the Senate to pass the budget bills, the Governor’s proposal for free tuition to students at State University of New York and City University of New York institutions is reported to be included in the agreement.

These are challenging times for private colleges and universities in New York State. While we are grateful for the funds being provided through the Enhanced Tuition Awards in the announced budget, this approach to addressing college affordability is not broad enough to serve all students. Ninety-nine percent of the undergraduate students at The College of Saint Rose receive aid, showing we have always been dedicated to addressing the needs of our students. We had hoped that the state solution to affordability would offer more to students who find private, not-for-profit colleges and universities are the right educational experience for them.

For those who may be wondering how this NYS budget will impact The College of Saint Rose, we still have to analyze the details and the regulations that will accompany this budget before we make any predictions.  As we have done so often over the past three years, we will face our problems honestly for the benefit of our students, and we will remain inspired by the faith and courage of our founders. — Dr. Carolyn J. Stefanco, President

Jamal says it’s not a big deal.

“I love Saint Rose and this is a good fit for me,” says Jamal. “It’s not going to change. I’m still going to be here.”

But Jamal says the scholarship is a great step towards increasing opportunity. De La Cruz agrees. He says he’s happy for his friends who will now have the chance at a college experience.

“I think it’s good,” says De La Cruz. “More kids will be able to go to college now.”

As part of the program, students will also be required to live and work in-state after graduation for the same number of years they received the scholarship. Otherwise the scholarship is converted to a loan.

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