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New York: Free education in the land of the free

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Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it,” Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York proclaimed after New York became the first state in the US to make university tuition free for middle class students. Approved by the assembly and by the senate in April, governor Cuomo is expected to sign the budget bill this fall for what is now termed the ‘Excelsior Scholarship’.

Nearly half of full-time SUNY students, and more than 60% of those at CUNY, already pay nothing for tuition because of need-based federal Pell Grants or New York Tuition Assistance grants…

Who will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship

First, the scholarship applies students who attend a State University of New York or City University of New York school. Secondly, tuition will be free for residents who earn up to a specific income cap, which will be phased in over the first three years and increased according to the level of predicted inflation. That is, families earning no more than $100,000 in 2017, $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019.

Students require getting 30 credits a year as a measurement of academic performance and need to live and work in New York for as many years as they received the scholarship after graduation. Yet nearly half of full-time SUNY students, and more than 60% of those at CUNY, already pay nothing for tuition because of need-based federal Pell Grants or New York Tuition Assistance grants. Such students would not be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship.

The governor’s office estimates that the program will cost the state $163 million…

What will be the benefit?

The free tuition programme allows more students, who face difficulties to afford tuition costs, to continue higher education. Cuomo believes that, by increasing the education level of New York labour, the US economy will benefit from the increased efficiency eventually.

Like the UK, the US faces the threat of a credit crisis related to student debt, assuming not all debts will be paid back in full. But with free tuition, students who are eligible only need to cover living costs resulting in a decrease of student debt.

Where is the money from?

According to the state budget plan, the initiative also includes $19 million for a new tuition award program for students at private colleges. The governor’s office estimates that the program will cost the state $163 million. Therefore, the financial responsibility of students is being removed and transferred to New York taxpayers. Understandably, this has sparked debate when one considers that many taxpayers do not hold university degrees and, therefore, will be at a disadvantage in the future when the average education level of the next generation is higher.

What about the UK?

In England, the government is pushing in the opposite direction, with plans to increase tuition fees to £9,250 from the autumn…

According to the budget plan published in March, £536 million will go towards new free schools and the maintenance of existing schools, but there is no indication to show that the UK will follow the US when it comes to free tuition.

In fact, in England, the government is pushing in the opposite direction, with plans to increase tuition fees to £9,250 from the autumn. But, had Jeremy Corbyn achieved a political miracle in the general election and walked into the Houses of Parliament as the UK’s next prime minister, this could potentially have been a different story.

The Labour Party’s manifesto pledge to not only make university free for all, but to also wipe out student debt certainly resonated with young voters as the election results suggest. But, for now, with Theresa May at the helm the crisis of student loan repayments must continue to hack away at the UK economy.

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