New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is making headlines this week after proposing that all state and city colleges offer free tuition to hundreds of thousands of New York residents. This plan is aimed at helping students from low-income families afford college. While he’s well-intentioned, this plan does nothing to address the drivers of rising tuition costs.
Standing next to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Cuomo unveiled his proposal at LaGuardia Community College, one of many public colleges which would be forced to offer free tuition. Senator Sanders, who has been an outspoken advocate of free tuition, applauded Cuomo’s plan calling it “revolutionary” and adding, “That is a message that is going to provide hope and optimism for working-class families all across the state.”
The governor is wasting no time. He hopes to begin rolling out the three-year plan beginning this fall. The income limit for qualifying students begins at $100,000 and then will rise incrementally to $125,000 by the year 2019. In two years, the number of New York students receiving free tuition is projected to be around 200,000.
States such as Tennessee and Oregon already have their own programs, which help cover the costs of tuition for their residents. Adding New York to this list could result in more widespread acceptance of similar proposals. However, while these plans are touted as a solution to the college affordability problem, it does very little to address the reasons why college tuition costs keep rising.
Washington plays a big role. As federal and state governments continue to pour money into higher education, tuition has risen, not fallen as so many had hoped. Colleges and universities have no incentive to control or lower tuition costs, but increase tuition each year knowing they’re guaranteed increased funds.
Currently, the projected costs of this program are unclear, but the administration believes the cost will be somewhere around $163 million by 2019. However, many New York residents fear the real costs will be much higher than is currently speculated. Either way, this cost will ultimately fall on taxpayers with no accountability for how funds are being spent or ensuring that down are driving down in the future.