Can Cuomo’s Plan Reduce Student Debt?


New York Times

Hannah Reed, Features Senior Editor

When looking at colleges, all high-school seniors and their parents have a major question to consider: How are we going to pay for it? Student debt, reaching an unbelievable $1.2 trillion nationwide, is a scary thought for prospective college students. To lessen the cost, students try to obtain merit scholarships, athletic scholarships, and apply for any small scholarships they can. Even with these scholarships offered, many students are left with the only option of taking out student loans and graduating with an unacceptable amount of debt.

Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the Excelsior Scholarship program, which covers tuition costs at state colleges for middle and low-income New Yorkers. This program is the first of its kind in the nation and will help alleviate the burden of student debt while also placing higher education in the reach of thousands of bright students. Cuomo believes that his proposal will “provide hope and optimism for working-class families all across the state.” Under this plan, college students who have been accepted to a state or city university in New York would be eligible if they or their family earn $125,000 or less a year.

If Governor Cuomo’s proposal goes forward, it will place New York at the forefront of such efforts. Two other states, Tennessee and Oregon, already have programs to cover the costs of community college. The governor’s plan, however, would include four-year schools, including many campuses that are part of the state university system, as well as the city’s university system. The state would complete students’ tuition payments by supplementing existing state and federal grant programs. They would basically be covering the balance, but administration officials claim that some students could have their entire four-year education covered.

Hoping for a quick start for his idea, Cuomo plans to begin with a three-year rollout in the fall, with a $100,000 income limit which will rise to $125,000 by 2019. The cost of the program remains unclear, but the administration estimates that the state’s annual cost would be $163 million by 2019. This estimate could be affected by participation and the level of need.

Bernie Sanders, in full support of the program, called Cuomo’s proposal “a revolutionary idea for higher education… that’s going to reverberate not only throughout the State of New York, but throughout this country.” Many politicians have given praise and support for Cuomo’s plan. Others are reluctant to get on board until they know more of the details concerning the cost and effectiveness. Nevertheless, this proposal offers a great start to a solution for the major issue of college tuition.

For low and middle-income families in New York, they may see hope for the future when it comes to affording state schools for their children. Loans may not be the only option anymore if the Excelsior Scholarship program becomes a reality and New York helps reduce the ridiculous amount of debt that students graduate with.