Reading the Fine Print in Cuomo’s “Tuition-Free College” Plan

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

A banner with the strange device, Excelsior! –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Excelsior,” a latin word meaning “Higher!” or “Ever upward!” is the state motto of New York. It’s also the name of Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new “tuition-free” college plan, where it sits comfortably with the names of other aspirational educational programs, like “Race to the Top.” It’s also the title of a poem (parodied by Rocky and Bullwinkle[1]) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, about a youthful traveller, climbing a mountain in the gathering darkness after an old man, a maiden, and a peasant attempt to dissuade him. They find the traveller at daybreak:

A traveller, by the faithful hound
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
Excelsior!

(Excelsior was, apparently, the Into Thin Air of its day.) It’s hard to imagine that for Cuomo, “Ever upward!” means anything other than “Ever upward to the Presidency in 2020!”, though naturally one would not wish the traveller’s fate on him. “Cuomo 2020? NY budget boosts talk”:

Hillary Clinton said this about Cuomo as she touted his free SUNY tuition plan: “This is exactly the image that progressive leadership believes in and delivers on.”

The comments came just days after Cuomo made good on several top priorities in the state budget and added to growing speculation that the Democratic governor is eyeing a presidential run in 2020.

The free SUNY tuition plan, in particular, garnered national headlines that boosted Cuomo’s profile. Not only did he appear with Clinton in Queens to do a ceremonial bill signing, he first launched the proposal in January with Bernie Sanders, who battled Clinton for the presidential nomination in 2016.

The sequence Sanders-Clinton — as opposed to the sequence Clinton-Sanders — certainly shows which side of the party bread Cuomo believes the butter is on, doesn’t it? Still, it’s nice to be pandered to, however ineptly!

So with the partisan context out of the way, I’ll first look briefly at the framing of the Cuomo plan. Then I’ll look at the fine print. (Let me stress that I’m in no way an expert on public policy for college finance or college debt; this is simply an aggregation of takes by those more expert than I am. I hope any readers going through this process — or with children going through it — will add their comments.)

The Framing

Here’s what Governor Andrew Cuomo has to say:

“You want to talk about a difference government can make? This is the difference that government can make,” Cuomo said at a budget briefing Friday. “There is no child who will go to sleep tonight and say ‘I have great dreams, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get a college education because mommy and daddy can’t afford it.’ Every child will have the opportunity that education provides.”

And the same trope in different words:

“It says, every child who puts his head on the pillow or her head on the pillow — you can be a success,” he said, according to a transcript of the appearance circulated by his office. “It doesn’t matter if Mom and Dad can’t pay for college. It says to parents, ‘Don’t worry about paying for college. Don’t worry about choosing between paying rent and paying for college education. The state will invest in your child because that’s an investment in the state.'”

And here’s what Ex-Senator Hillary Clinton has to say:

“I believe every single child and young person in New York and America deserves the chance to go as their hard work, their skills, education will take them,” she said. “What we need to be doing is throwing open the doors for everyone willing to work and achieve their education.

Needless to say, neither of these statements –“every child,” and “every single child” — are true, as we’ll see when we look at the fine print. (To be fair, Clinton, cannier than Cuomo says what she believes shoud come to pass, as opposed to promising it will). Sanders is more measured:

In other words, better, but not good enough. However, I would rather have the Overton Window dragged left than not, on the assumption that an Overton Window in motion tends to stay in motion. Sanders again:

“Here’s my prediction,” the Vermont independent said in a speech promoting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to provide free college tuition to middle-class families. “If New York state does it this year, mark my words, state after state will follow.”

Let’s just hope their bills are better than New York’s (and that ultimately, there’s a Federal bill. Why not?)

The Fine Print

Interestingly, coverage of Cuomo’s plan was by no means uncritical, suggesting that he may not get the tailwind for 2020 that he expects. (For early negative reactions, see here and here.) From my perspective, Cuomo’s plan has one critical flaw:

Cuomo’s “Tuition-Free College” Plan is not a universal benefit

That is, Excelsior is not a left program providing universal concrete material benefits to everyone, especially the working class. So it’s not a program from the left. Rather, it’s a typical liberal program, directed only at the “deserving,” hedged about with complexity, and targeting the (so-called) middle class, and not the working class. More specifically, Cuomo’s plan:

  1. Is means-tested
  2. Does not cover fees
  3. Covers full-time students only
  4. Has a residency requirement
  5. Has clawbacks
  6. Has a “crapshoot” clause

Let’s consider each of these points in turn.

Cuomo’s Plan Is Means-Tested

ABC writes:

The plan crafted by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will apply to any New York student whose family has an annual income of $125,000 or less.

I strongly believe that universal benefits — certainly Cuomo’s plan is presented as a universal benefit to society — should not be means-tested. Clinton’s focus-grouped talking point that she doesn’t want to pay tp send Donald Trump’s kids to college[2] aside, a right is a right: If people have the right to a college education, as Cuomo’s heartwarming rhetoric about sleeping children implies, then the right should apply regardless of income, like all other rights. Second, if the program is truly universal, that means the rich have a stake in it (however small). That’s one of the things that’s helped protect Canadian single payer; the rich use it too. Third, means-testing and gatekeeping generally are in essence a jobs guarantee for the professional class, and one can’t help but think that’s a key consideration for the Democrat establishment, since that’s their base. (Which is fine, I’m for a jobs guarantee, but only as a universal benefit, and not as an example of pork[3].)

Cuomo’s Plan Does Not Cover Fees

Like it says in the tin, Cuomo’s plan covers tuition only. It does not cover fees, room and board, textbooks, etc. ABC:

Other experts have noted that the New York program covers only tuition, with no additional money for other college fees such as room and board and books, which can be substantial. Over the course of four years at a State University of New York college, tuition would make up only about $26,000 of the total $83,000 tab.

$83,000 – $26,000 = $57,000?! That’s a lot of money! Worse, the state legislature (or Cuomo) can game the budgeting process through fee hikes:

Since the scholarship only covers tuition, the state may pressure colleges to increase fees in an effort to reduce program costs. This happened in Massachusetts for years and still happens in Georgia, both states with large merit-based grant aid programs. Over time, it is quite possible that the value of the grant fails to keep up with inflation as a result—particularly if the state shifts funding from appropriations to student aid and colleges scramble for another revenue source.

Cuomo’s Plan Covers Full-Time Students Only

AM New York quotes John Aderounmu, 20, a junior at Hunter College and member of the Campaign to Make CUNY Free Again:

Cuomo claims that more than 940,000 middle class families and individuals will qualify for free tuition, but Aderounmu said that “very few students are eligible” for the Excelsior Scholarship. Why? Recipients must take a course load of at least five courses and there is no provision for living expenses. Most low income students have to work while attending college and can’t afford to take such a heavy course load.

Cuomo’s Plan Has Clawbacks for Those Who Leave the State

Slate writes:

The biggest complaints [about Cuomp’s plan] have focused on the pointless and parochial requirement that students stay in New York state after graduation for as many years as they received the Excelsior funding. Otherwise, their grants will turn into loans. (There will be deferments for graduate school and “extreme hardship.”)

I understand the political argument: “Why should the state of New York pay for a student who, when they graduate, moves to Colorado?” Leaving aside the idea of these United States, this is an argument for a Federal program. Fortune explains why this is a bad idea:

This is a big problem for several reasons. First, the ability to compete in the national labor market is a key reason that a college degree offers such a large financial return. This requirement puts a significant handicap on the job prospects of middle-class students at a critical point in their careers.

Second, it can encourage undesirable behavior, such as incentivizing an unemployed recent graduate to stay in New York and consume safety net services rather than taking an entry-level job in another state. A $30,000 tax is a powerful reason not to move. This could even lead to New York employers offering slightly lower salaries to in-state grads, since they’ll know this group has fewer out-of-state options.

Third, students who move out of state would actually be worse off for having participated in the free college program, because the loan they receive will not have the same benefits and protections that come with federal student loans (which they would have taken out in the absence of this plan). The most significant protection missing would be income-based repayment, which ties loan payments to how much someone makes.

Here’s a splendid worst case scenario:

[T]o be clear, they are not simply agreeing to live in New York for up to five years after graduation. They are also agreeing to work in New York. So a graduate who lives in Chatham and four years later gets a summer job in Pittsfield could suddenly face a student loan burden of up to $27,500.

Yikes!

Cuomo’s Plan Has Clawbacks for Those Who Don’t Finish 15 Credits a Semester

Inside Higher Education explains a second onerous clawback in Cuomo’s plan:

The governor’s office has cast the Excelsior Scholarship’s 30-credit-per-year requirement as a component that will ensure students complete college on time. …[M]any wonder how the 30-credit requirement will affect low-income students who may need to work summers to pay for rent or college fees — expenses that the Excelsior Scholarship program does not cover. They say the benefits of free tuition need to be available to part-time students. And they wonder if students will drift toward easier programs in order to ensure that they will meet the academic standards necessary to keep their free tuition.

What is becoming clear is what will happen to Excelsior Scholarship students who fail to complete 30 credits in a year. The legislation that authorized the Excelsior Scholarship says that such a student is only eligible to receive their award for the first semester of that year.

So the student becomes ineligible for the second semester of the year. Colleges and universities will be responsible for charging such students.

The program has also generated discussion around a requirement that students complete 30 credits per year to remain eligible. And the 30-credit requirement comes with another caveat that has been previously overlooked: students who don’t complete 30 credits in a year could have some of their Excelsior Scholarship clawed back. They’ll still be eligible for the first semester of free tuition in the year in which they failed to complete 30 credits. But after that year is over, they could receive a bill from their college or university asking them to pay for their second semester, unless a hardship is declared.

So, kick ’em on the way down (unless they undergo a test from a professional gatekeeper for being “deserving”).

Cuomo’s Plan Has A “Crapshoot” Clause

Another lovely scenario:

The budget has a provision that allows awards to be cut or allocated via lottery if funds run short, which is a distinct possibility if the state faces another recession. Needless to say, this would be a PR nightmare for the state.

And, equally needless to say — at least one would think so — a nightmare for the students making their decisions about which college to attend! AM New York once more:

The legislation “allows each college to determine the GPA required to stay in the program,” and if more people qualify than there are slots available, awards will be decided “through a lottery or other mechanism to be decided by college presidents,” said Erik Forman, an organizer for the Make CUNY Free Again campaign. “They might as well say ‘while supplies last,'” scoffed Forman.

Holy moley!

Conclusion

It looks to me like this lead from AP summarizes Cuomo’s plan quite well:

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York is set to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students.

With all the complexities and hoops to jump through, plus the 30-credit requirement, plus the failure to cover fees, Cuomo’s plan doesn’t look so working class-friendly, does it? So let’s contrast Cuomo’s plan to Sanders’ plan:

Earlier this month, Sanders introduced the College for All Act, which would eliminate tuition and fees at all four-year public colleges and universities, for students and families making less than $125,000. Community colleges would be tuition and fee-free for all.

At least Sanders covers the fees! (And since his program is Federal, Cuomo’s bizarre residency requirement goes away, as well as the presumed necessity for the “crapshoot”). Again, Sanders has a sober assessment:

Real progress appears to be taking place in New York State. Let’s keep the pressure on.

“Let’s keep the pressure on.” Exactly.

NOTES

[1] See sense 1; Excelsior™seems to have been the bubble-wrap of its day.

[2] Clinton would never, ever do that, in fact could not. Federal taxes don’t “pay for” Federal spending.

[3] Or possibly I should say “lard,” since pork goes by district, whereas good jobs at good wages doing means testing are “spread around.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

42 comments

  1. David, by the lake

    I would suggest that an alternative to making credentialing free to all would be making the credentialing less necessary in the first place. Of course, we’d have to have a primary and secondary education system which actually educated and prepared youth to graduate as fully functional citizens coming out of high school. Adding layers of complexity is not, I’d argue, a good solution to the problems caused by a complex system.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Tressie MC points out that it used to be possible to learn on the job; experience was equal to the credential. that seems to have been done away with.

      Personally, I think it’s important not to confuse college with a trade school.

      1. David, by the lake

        I don’t disagree. One used to be able to become a licensed teacher, engineer, lawyer, (GP) physician, etc, via apprenticeship and examination. We’ve made higher education into a credentialing and fund-extracting, gate-keeping exercise. I understand that the idea of simplifying is rather heretical, however I do think it offers a better allocation of scarce resources. But, as I said, we’d have to have a primary/secondary education system that actually educates. I keep coming back to the example, pointed out to me some time ago, that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were addressed to an audience with (roughly) an 8th-grade education of the time — which does not speak well to our present system. Perhaps we should consider a different way of doing things, rather than redoubling our efforts in the current direction. One ought to be able to come out of high school, I’d suggest, and be able to get a job or begin an apprenticeship job-track with wage able to support oneself or perhaps a small beginning family.

        1. Carla

          “a primary/secondary education system that actually educates” — will not serve capital, and our political system is Capitalism.

          (And don’t tell me Capitalism is not a political system. Yeah, it is.)

    2. Tomonthebeach

      In this plan, what ain’t smoke-n-mirrors is debt. The plan masquerades as meritocracy, when it fact it is the same-o-same-o.

      A huge flaw in logic is the assumption that part-time attendance is worthless. Extended, the flaw implies that even one college course is not worthy of taxpayer investment in a citizen’s future.

      100% compliance is a debunked notion in medicine. The old belief was that if you do not take all the medicine prescribed you will get no benefit from taking any of it has proven to be dead wrong. It is far easier to conclude that a little knowledge is better than no knowledge at all.

      Lastly, this plan punishes immaturity. Many bright 18 year-olds are not mature enough to apply themselves in college, and flunk out or at least underperform. I dropped out as a sophomore, grew up over the next year and set my sights on a science career. When I returned, I got straight A’s and left with a PhD. The NY plan ignores that later in life, a mature adult might wish to return to college study, but by then has financial responsibilities that obviate full-time attendance.

  2. From Cold Mountain

    Because I have Asperger’s I could only take 12 credits a semester to keep my stress down when I went to SUNY Stony Brook in the late 80’s. So I guess I would not be able to get Cuomo’s free tuition today.

    1. justanotherprogressive

      I checked at some schools. “Full-time” is only 12 credits, not 15. I’m not sure why Cuomo insists that students take 15 credits to be considered “full-time”….

  3. maria gostrey

    the full time student requirement also excludes those kids with disabilities who cant carry full coarse loads.

    so that headline should read:

    New York is set to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students <em>who are not blind, hearing impaired, on the autism spectrum or in any other manner eligible to receive special education services.

      1. UserFriendly

        Or need to work to pay for the room and board. After all, the living expenses in NYC are soooo reasonable. Was there wording about you needing to be coming straight from high school? Can you take a year off to earn some money to afford your room and board? Didn’t I read that if you don’t graduate it defaults into a loan? I’m not at all convinced this is a good idea even as a step forward. Obamacare was a neoliberal nightmare that still might get repealed because it screwed some while helping others. If you can’t at least make sure that this isn’t going to screw people it isn’t worth doing.

        1. TheCatSaid

          “If you can’t at least make sure that this isn’t going to screw people it isn’t worth doing.”

          great point and succinct!

    1. DonCoyote

      And readers can decide which law of neoliberalism is more apropos for excluding such students (also excluded in large swaths by charter schools, another fine neoliberal “solution”).

      I work at a community college, and very few of our students take 15-credit terms. Yes, our graduation rate is much lower than four-year institutions, but even a minority of our graduates take 15-credit terms. My son is about to graduate community college (a different one) in two years. Even though I have known for many years that he was “smart” enough to succeed at college, he has yet to (successfully) complete a 15-credit semester, making heavy use of the winter and summer terms (especially to concentrate on tougher courses, e.g. Calculus) to accumulate the necessary credits in two years.

      According to the Gates Foundation, the majority of college students are full-time (63%), also the majority of them work (64%), and the majority of them are white, (58%). I’m sure there is a positive correlation (although unsure how strong) between being White and full-time, and almost certainly negative correlations between being White and working as well as full-time and working. So, again, Excelsior for who?

      “Whoah neolibs know, and they make a plan
      With benefits unavailable to the workin’ man
      We’re working our jobs, collecting less pay[rule 1]
      Hope for better for our kids, but our lives are slip sliding away[rule 2]”

    2. Cujo359

      Not every household making more than $125k will be willing or able to support their kids going to a public university, either.

      There’s a good economic argument for free higher education, which is that the country is richer when its people are as educated as they can be.

  4. ChrisAtRU

    Awesome. Thank you for this. Surprising to me that Sanders even lukewarmly endorsed this. More people need to know this.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, Cuomo’s proposal is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. So, as Sanders says, “Let’s keep the pressure on.” And when this problem is dealt with, then: “Yeah, but what have you done for me lately?”

      1. Carla

        I dunno, Lambert. Looks to me as if Cuomo’s proposal is to free college as the ACA is to single-payer.

        Now, if in fact, a miracle transpires and the healthcare insanity somehow results in real, viable single-payer, then maybe Cuomo’s move “toward” free college would look better.

      2. Katy

        Does anyone consider that free college will inevitably lead to degree inflation? If a college-level education suddenly becomes the standard, you won’t be able to get a job making lattes at a Starbucks without a four-year degree.

        In a better world, only students who want to be in college would go to college, instead of the current climate, in which our politicians are implying that you HAVE to go to college in order to have a good life.

        1. jrs

          It will in the absence of enough decent jobs (in many cases jobs period). It didn’t so much when college was near free in California at one point, but that was an economy with adequate jobs for population, unions, manufacturing etc.. So yea without living wage jobs (or else incomes) we’re all screwed regardless and it’s all just a question of who gets the lifeboats pretty much.

          College *IS* the neoliberal individualistic meritocratic solution, an industrial policy at the very least would be needed for an actual social solution.

          1. ChrisAtRU

            “It didn’t so much when college was near free in California at one point …”

            “So yea without living wage jobs (or else incomes) we’re all screwed regardless and it’s all just a question of who gets the lifeboats pretty much.”

            All good points! #Concur

            ” … an industrial policy at the very least would be needed for an actual social solution.”

            And that solution would be a #JG … ;-) We’re not going to get progress with the vaunted private sector articulating wage depression and the establishment economics community still tied to lame fallacies like the #NAIRU.

        2. UserFriendly

          Does anyone consider that free college will inevitably lead to degree inflation?

          This argument is on par with using a reserve army of the unemployed to fight off inflation. Do we want to have a competitive workforce that isn’t a bunch of suicidal resentful debt slaves going forward? Yes. So lets talk about other solutions.

          1. Require that all colleges work with absolutely every new graduate until they find employment and create a public (anonymous) database showing what type of work people with each major get and what their starting salary is.
          2. Require every student to review that data before they are allowed to declare that major.
          3. Stop expanding degree programs that do not have jobs. I’d be willing to bet that there are plenty of schools that are all too eager to expand useless degree’s that are cheaper to hire staff for just to pad their budgets.
          4. Stricter admissions requirements to 4 year schools and/or make sure that every school has trade skill alternatives.
          5. Use BLS Employment Projections to determine how many people of each major are needed and come up with a way to incentivise or cap or whatever to get students to study what is needed.

          That isn’t meant to be definitive or ideal it’s just a handful of things that came off the top of my head, I’m sure people can figure out better ways, or just look at what europe is doing and see how that works.

      3. TheCatSaid

        If any “misstep” along the way over a 4 or 5-year period can suddenly land a student with a big loan they hadn’t expected and can’t pay–they might be better off with the poke in the eye.

        It’s not a plan just for middle-class, non-challenged students, it’s also for the subset that are uber-conformists willing to go along with whatever the system dictates, no matter how unreasonable or against the students’ short- or long-term interests. It’s social engineering disguised as an education plan. Again.

  5. cocomaan

    Lambert, big thanks for going through the proposal and finding the interesting parts.

    The FT requirement is the real death knell, in my opinion. This is supposedly open to community college students, but good luck finding a community college student that isn’t doing something else. I’ll conservatively say that half of community college students wouldn’t be eligible for the scholarship.

    Also, this part is just crazy:

    Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, agreed New York’s program is a strong political move but questioned an execution that “borders on gimmicky.”

    He was particularly critical of New York’s “last-dollar” tuition-only setup, which would keep costs relatively low — an estimated $163 million a year — by paying the tuition only after awards from state and federal sources are applied. Students from families making $50,000 or less wouldn’t benefit because their tuition is already covered by other programs.

    In other words, poor people get to apply to a panoply of programs with awful administrivia attached to the application process. “It’s a right, but first we’ll make sure someone else is paying for it – you do the paperwork.”

  6. jawbone

    I’ve never trusted Cuomo the Younger ever since he made his announcement speech to run for governor. I don’t remember the details, but a Republican could have given most of it, as I recall.

    He is not you father’s NY Dem governor.

    When I first heard about free tuition gambit, coming from Cuomo, I knew it would not be a good one.

  7. justanotherprogressive

    Thank you for this article, Lambert.
    This is just one more example of how the Democratic elites can take what is basically a good idea and run it into the ground…….kind of like what they did with health insurance…..

  8. grayslady

    I’m pleased to see that you mentioned Bernie’s program also was tuition only, even though without means testing. Bernie’s initial college experience was attending a city college in New York City. That is typical of the European model, since traditional European colleges (not the colleges in Great Britain, but other parts of Europe) are buildings located in the city, not on separate campuses. A friend who was educated in the Dutch university system told me he walked to and from university every day while living at home with his parents. Here in Illinois, even the community colleges are located on large tracts of land without access to commuter rail transportation, and no student could walk to class. In addition to the many other shortcomings you mention for Cuomo’s plan (or even Bernie’s plan), these aren’t models that work for the U.S.

    Frankly, if we returned to the days when the Feds and the states contributed most of the money for state universities, we wouldn’t need “free” tuition. Here in Illinois, the State is only contributing 30% of education costs, whether grammar school or college. The taxpayers are being squashed with huge real estate taxes to make up the difference (for local schools), as well as state income tax allocation for public colleges. Even with the outrageously high taxes, an in-state student at U of Illinois is looking at $20,000 per year for room, board and tuition. I understand that Michigan is the least expensive for in-state students at approximately $14,000 per year. Ridiculous!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The bill Sanders introduced “would eliminate tuition and fees“. It is not tuition-only. (I don’t recall what his proposal in the campaign was.)

      1. grayslady

        Thanks for pointing that out. If you look at what those “fees” cover, they are typically for student health insurance (wouldn’t be required if we had universal health care), recreation centers, student centers (read student lounges), and student activities (athletic, social, musical, etc.). Again, the typical European university system doesn’t have sports teams, recreation or social centers–all of which have nothing to do with academic education. I’ve never understood why taxpayers here should fund any non-academic activities, such as what are essentially semi-pro football and basketball teams that are only participated in by a few dozen students.

        By the way, I was incorrect in stating that in-state costs for the University of Illinois are $20,000. The costs are over $30,000 for the main campus, including tuition, fees, room, board, and books.

  9. chicagogal

    Would bet that somewhere along the way,those few students who are able to take advantage of this plan will end up having the “benefit” taxed as income the way Pell and other grants were in the late 80s! Would also bet that sometime soon everyone will be throwing up their hands saying they don’t understand why their brilliant idea isn’t working.

  10. Pat

    Just another way that Cuomo is trying to look Presidential. Operative word being “look”, not that the operative mode of the Presidency isn’t optics anymore. Opening three stations with two miles of track for the Second Avenue subway being another. Upstate Uber might also be, but I’m not so sure how they will get the visuals for the ads.

    What I will say is that Cuomo’s stunted tuition plan, his minimum wage increase ‘compromise’ would not be happening without major lefty populist pressure – Sanders and Fight for Fifteen. I cannot think of anything that was truly populist move on Cuomo’s part prior to this last year, even though it has been clear for sometime that he is going to run for President (Don’t get me started on his support for charter schools, job creation boondoggles and his corruption. Not to mention his medical marijuana hurdle filled atrocity, and that isn’t one of my pet issues.)

    Somebody good with graphics should make up a poster of Cuomo with what he says/does vs. the reality. This tuition plan should go right at the top. But without Sanders not even this would be happening.

    1. TheCatSaid

      Mightn’t the “just doing this” be actually more harmful than doing nothing, because it creates a deliberately false perception?

  11. Kurtismayfield

    As Lambert already mentioned, NY will now freeze the tuition and jack up the fees. If you need evidence of this model look no further than Massachusetts. After they started offering the Adams scholarship (tied to state exams BTW) there has been very little movement in tuition. However the current cost for a 3 credit undergrad course is $399 dollars, with $525 in fees. It’s awfully convenient when many students get “Free tuition” that fees are now more than half the costs.

    I will mention again, only 40% of NYS community college and public University students graduate in 4 years. So “free tuition” will only be for a minority of students.

  12. jerry

    Lol the vast majority of the US people and economy is finished, barring extraordinary civic engagement and revolution, and soon.

    Having deceived the “‘left” first via obama and now the right via trump, Washington is now walking a fine line in avoiding populist uprising. Trump has been and will continue to be an abject failure to his supporters as he continues to move to the centrist Cohn/Kushner wing and away from Bannon (whatever it is Steve was planning to do anyway?)..

    The question is – in 2018/2020 will the nation AGAIN fall for the bait and switch that Democrats employ so masterfully? How far to the left will the democrats ostensibly have to move in order to pull in enough of the Sanders coalition? Will Bernie himself again play ball with the DNC?

    The demographics are about all that favors an uprising, as informed younger voters that see this economy for what it is continue to make up more of the population, but that doesn’t seem like enough on its own.

  13. lyle

    Since the terms are announced in advance, the student can decide if they want to go that way or go loans in the first place. In particular if they are interested in a career that does not really exist in new york state,, (say oil exploration geologist) they can just say no to the program.
    One issue on the room and board issue, is how many are where they could continue to live at home and go to school. (that is clearly true of cuny students and there is no issue there of mass transit) It has always been true that living at home is cheaper than living on campus. It would be interesting to see the percent of students at the various SUNY and community colleges that live at home. (If not in NYC an old beater car could suffice for transport)

  14. bmeisen

    The Fortune quote perpetuates the ruse that education is an investment in your earning potential. This opens the front door to the zombies waiting out front, and once they get a decaying foot in the door even the Ivy League sherrifs won’t be able to save us.

    Education – and especially higher ed in the age of de-skilling – must be seen as a public good, not as a personal investment. Like clean air and water, transport infrastructure, access to sewage and electricity and the internet, health services, public safety and features of culture and the common defense, without education democracy, the social contract, and civil society are in danger. They are under attack. We don’t necessarily have a right to access these goods – in a democracy the state should provide these goods in its own interest, to ensure its continued existence, which is ultimately the liquidity of its tax base. The Security State as we know it today is motivated not by a fascination with guns and puzzles nor by voyeurism and power fantasies. Its argument is to protect the state’s financial basis: taxpayers. This must be its position until fiat currency liberates more than the banksters from from having to pay taxes.

  15. calleman13

    Sort of reminds me of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship in Massachusetts. Supposed to be a tuition waver for public universities, but they structure it so that tuition is only $800-900/year while “fees” are $11,000-12,000/year. Completely backwards. And then the state politicians pat themselves on the back and say they’re giving kids “free tuition.” What a joke. All these programs are.

  16. Scott

    Just give the GI Bill as it was to all the surviving combat soldiers of WWII to everyone, and be done with it.

  17. JTFaraday

    I can see saying we’re only going to fund students who dedicate themselves full time and maintain high standards (although that’s not exactly “free college for all”), but that crap shoot clause turns the whole thing into one big joke.

    Sounds a lot like the job market, actually. Why I find the whole concept of career based education– and people’s utter devotion to it– mostly puzzling. Now, I know people make it work for them, but to hear such people talk about what constitutes an acceptable education, they also seem to have little recognition that that THEY’RE the ones who are making the huge leap of faith.

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