The New York State Young Democrats (NYSYD) are proud to support Governor Cuomo’s plan to make college more affordable for all New Yorkers. This proposal, the Excelsior Scholarship, will provide free tuition for all two-year and four-year degrees at all schools within the SUNY (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems – two of the largest public university systems in the nation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled this initiative, the first of many prior to his State of the State addresses, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. The program will allow those making up to $125,000 per year to attend any CUNY and SUNY college tuition-free by paying the remaining costs not already covered by grants and scholarships.
“A college education is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility, and with these first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarships, we’re providing the opportunity for New Yorkers to succeed, no matter what zip code they come from and without the anchor of student debt weighing them down,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.
“Governor Cuomo has presented a solid plan to make college more affordable for all New Yorkers,” said Mike Corbett, President of the New York State Young Democrats. “The Excelsior Scholarship program will allow anyone who attends a SUNY or CUNY school to do so without the burden of debt upon graduation. As a result, the dream of a quality college education will become a reality for almost one million middle-class families. This proposal is another example of New York State setting the tone for the nation and we thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue.”
A similar plan to pay the tuition for all CUNY and SUNY students who agree to live in New York State for five years following graduation and perform a requisite number of hours per year of community service had been previously introduced by Assemblyman James Skoufis, NYSYD‘s 2016 Young Elected of the Year, in 2014. The Governor’s plan seems to draw on and expand that idea.
“I am extremely encouraged to see the Governor join our three-year effort to enact free tuition at our public colleges. For so many New Yorkers, the snowballing cost of a higher education has meant drowning in student debt for over a decade; for countless more, it serves as an outright roadblock,” said Assemblyman Skoufis (D-Woodbury). “Our students and families cannot wait any longer. Now’s the time for the Governor and Legislature to come together and heed the call from our families to live up to SUNY’s and CUNY‘s original promise: a truly affordable and high-quality experience. Let’s get it done in 2017.”
NYSYD is committed to making this plan a reality to improve the economic well-being of its current and future members. The organization calls on the members of the New York State Legislature to draft and pass a bill with the proper funding mechanisms to see this through to send to the Governor’s desk for his signature in time for the 2017-2018 academic year.
In this new global economy, a well-educated workforce has become necessary for continued growth. According to the U.S. Department of Education, employees with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66% more than those with a high school diploma over their lifetimes.
Today, an increasing number of jobs require a college degree for entry-level work. Additionally, student loans has become the second-largest form of consumer debt and, from private lenders, can have an annual interest rate as high as 13%. This situation is preventing a new generation of laborers from entering the workforce with a decent wage and, in turn, money to contribute to the economy.
“As a college student, I applaud this proposal to make higher education more attainable,” said College Democrats of New York (CDNY) President Kevin Kowaleski. “Hundreds of thousands of middle-class and working-class New Yorkers attend SUNY and CUNY institutions, and they understand that this issue is of critical importance. For many current and prospective college students, lower costs could make the difference between realizing their full potential and falling short of their dreams. It’s time for New York to invest in our students and lead the nation on college affordability.”
Having the support of Senator Sanders, who made college affordability a hallmark of his 2016 Presidential Campaign, is testament to how this plan is something every state can model and be a catalyst to finally making college affordable nationwide.
The New York State Young Democrats is the official youth arm of the New York State Democratic Committee. It represents Democrats between the ages of 16-36 living in all of New York’s 62 counties.