On Saturday, April 8th a budget was officially passed in New York State that will allow for free tuition for all four-year City Universities of New York and State Universities of New York. This is going to slowly make its way to all families with a yearly income under $125,000 over a span of three years, but as of fall 2018 it is going to apply to families with a yearly income under $100,000. The budget will also focus on minimizing and even eliminating the costs of textbooks and class materials by making more resources and classes available online.
Ever since the news broke about this I have seen a mixture of responses. Many people, students and parents alike, are amazed and incredibly grateful for this. However, others, students and parents alike, are upset about it. One comment I saw on Facebook that particularly stood out to me stated: “Another handout is just what is needed. They don’t have to work for a damn thing. This is crap." Instead of angrily responding to this comment directly on social media in the heat of the moment, I was inspired to write this article. Before I really get into it, I would like to point out that this is by no means meant to be an attack on the person who posted this comment or anyone else that finds this budget pass upsetting or unfair. It is to simply state my opinion on the matter, and argue that this is in fact a wonderful thing.
I’ll start off with a general response to the news. I think it’s great. Our state government is taking a big step to help young people become educated at a higher level. People that may not have previously been able to afford college have a better chance of being able to now. My hope is that more people will plan to attend college to get a higher education instead of just pushing the option aside completely because the money was too much of a burden.
Now, a response to the Facebook comment. The individual stated that this is a “handout.” Although in some aspects of the phrase this may be true, but I do not believe it is something that is so outrageous that people should be upset about it. The tuition of SUNY/CUNY schools will be made free for those eligible. If you’ve ever paid for college, especially a SUNY school, you know that the tuition is only a small portion of the total cost of attendance. At my school, I am currently being charged twice as much for Room/Board than I am for tuition. So even with the tuition fee taken out of the equation, college still costs a lot. This budget is not to make it so anyone can go to college for free. It is to help those who are serious about going to school for a higher education, but may not have the resources to do so. Students will still be exiting school in debt, but perhaps now those burdens will not be as heavy.
The comment also stated that students no longer have to work for things. This is false. The free tuition does not guarantee someone a spot in the school. The admittance process should remain the same at SUNY schools, and I predict they may even take on a higher standard for the students they let in because of this drastic change. Just because the tuition portion of the college will be free, this doesn’t give high school students an excuse to stop working hard. If they want to get into the SUNY school that they want, they should still aim to create a great application. That should not change.
This goes for scholarships as well. Again, only the tuition will be free, meaning there is still a huge amount of money that will go towards the rest of your education for room and board, meal plan, campus fees, textbooks, etc. For many families, that free tuition will not be enough, so they will still need to look into scholarship opportunities. I know I will continue to apply for scholarships throughout the remainder of my college years simply because any amount of money that my parents and I will not have to pay back in the future helps. Financial aid provides some kind of reassurance that I will not graduate after four years already in crippling debt, and my parents will not be out of money and in debt themselves after sending four kids to college over a span of 11 years.
So all in all, this is a great thing for many families in New York. Students are not being handed a place in a college; they are not being excused from working hard, and they are not being given money to just go to school and not take it seriously. Roughly 940,000 families will be given the opportunity to send their children to college. It’s as simple as that. We still have to pay crazy amounts of money for our higher education, we still have to work hard to receive and maintain scholarships, and we are grateful that our state is helping us gain opportunities, experiences, and an education without coming out the other end when our life if supposed to begin worrying about our crippling debt.