A First Step to Free College in New York?

I was reading about New York State’s proposed budget which, if passed, can enable students from middle class families to attend college for free. The income cap has been set at $100,000 this year and will rise to $110,000 in 2018 and then $125,000 in 2019. Students from families who qualify may apply for an “Excelsior” Scholarship and, as long as they enroll for 30 credits, they may attend a State University of New York or City University of New York school for free.

This is exciting news, since higher education, typically regarded as a necessary requirement for interesting and lucrative work, has been getting more and more expensive over the years, arguably leaving the middle class in the most difficult position of all: not poor enough to qualify for significant scholarships, but not rich enough to fund college.   The amount of debt carried by our college-graduating youngsters is both staggering and depressing.

So it’s nice to see a gesture by at least one state to help its students take the next step in their education, and it would be great if we saw more of this. The state did add a caveat, however: students who receive the scholarship are required to live and work in New York for the same number of years they received funding, or else their scholarship will be converted into a loan. I must admit that I find this unfortunate; it seems to me that, as an “advanced” society, helping our youth to educate themselves is simply a practical and appropriate thing to do, regardless of where they decide to “spend” their knowledge afterwards. But hopefully it’s the first of many steps in the right direction.