Governor Cuomo has started 2017 with a substantial plan designed to respond to the financial challenges most students and families face today in pursuing higher education. On January 3rd, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to launch the Excelsior Scholarship, which would make tuition free at all SUNY (State University of New York) and CUNY (City University of New York) campuses, as well as at two-year community colleges. All college students whose families earn less than a total of $125,000 per year would be eligible. If passed by state legislature, the program could have a considerable impact on many students and families throughout New York State. According to the Governor, as much as 80 per cent of households currently make less than the $125,000 cut off mark for program eligibility.
The Governor’s office has shared that by their estimation, 70 per cent of jobs in New York State require successful job candidates to have completed an undergraduate college degree. There has been steady debate throughout the country wondering upon the value of the college degree in the 21st century. There is growing concern that the higher education system is broken, and that the debt that saddles most graduates leaves them with little hope for a bright, self-sustaining future. Indeed, most students graduate with an average of 30,000 of student loan debt. The Excelsior Scholarship seeks to tackle these realities head on, and could potentially enable more youth and adults to pursue and complete college, as well as stimulate the job market with more qualified candidates.
The Governor, joined by Senator Bernie Sanders, announced the plan at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Sen. Sanders is a well-known advocate for tackling student debt and making public universities tuition free. As articulated on the campaign trail by Sen. Sanders, the United States once boasted the largest number of college graduates some thirty years ago. However, the country now rests in 11th place worldwide. The Governor envisions a swift start to the new program. If passed, it will be launched this year and will take three years for full implementation.