January 6, 2017

Meanwhile Back In Albany (v10)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times
Our Sonofa Gov, Andrews Cuomo, is preparing for the annual State of the State address, or should
that be States of the State? State of the States?

I'm not quite sure how to use the SOTS terminology this year. You see, instead of doing a traditional address, he's going to do six of them.

That's right: six of them. Monday, he'll be in  NYC and Buffalo; on Tuesday, Westchester and Long Island get the news, and finally on Wednesday he'll speak in Albany and Syracuse. Kinda sucks to be last, I think, unless our cagey gov is going to be parcelling out bits and pieces of news across the state, sort of like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed. Or, Hansel and Gretel.

He's sort of started doing that already. Never one to take advantage of a hungry press looking to talk about, say, ethics reform, or legislative pay raises, or why the gov and the legislative leaders thought it might make sense to try and have a special Holiday Session and do something about the latter, he's instead releasing his 2017 plan piece by piece, seed by seed, crumb by crumb.

The first plank in his platform? Tuition free public college for families making up to $125,000, announced by the Gov with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at his side.
New York's tuition-free degree program, the Excelsior Scholarship, required participating students to be enrolled at a SUNY or CUNY two- or four-year college full time. The initiative will cover middle class families and individuals making up to $125,000 through a supplemental aid program. Currently 80% of NY households statewide make $125,000 or less with an estimate 940,000 households having college-aged children that would be eligible for the program. Based on enrollment projections, the plan will cost approximately $163 million per year once fully phased in.
This is a great plan for families who have kids who want to go to a SUNY school, but what kind of plan is it for others in the state of New York when we don't know where the $163M will come from? According to the governor's website, here's how it works.
The initiative will work by leveraging New York State's generous aid programs. Currently, the Tuition Assistance Program or TAP provides nearly $1B in grants to college students statewide and New York is one of only two states in the nation that offers this type of entitlement. Under the program, eligible students would still receive TAP and any applicable federal grants. Additional state funds would cover the remaining tuition costs for incoming or existing eligible students. 
Hmm. So we will educate your children for free, fellow New Yorkers, but what will your children give us in return, the folks who are paying for this program out of those mysterious "additional state funds" I wonder?
  • Do your kids stay here and pay us back by becoming doctors, or civil engineers, or public planners, doing good for via an Excelsior Employment contract requiring them to work here for say, twice as many years as they got in free tuition? 
  • Do they commit to getting good grades, and will they lose their free tuition if they don't?
Do we just get to feel good about ourselves, meaning that this is just another generous give-away program, garnering us national credit for our forward thinking, but no actual investment from the ones in whom we are investing so much?

New York is also the only state in the nation to offer a need-based loan forgiveness entitlement program that provides awards to New York State college graduates regardless of their degree or profession. The Governor's "Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness" program provides up to two years of student loan forgiveness to recent New York State college graduates. This program, coupled with New York's new Excelsior Scholarships Program, will ensure New York continues to lead the way forward on college affordability.
We can lead the way, if that's our collective aspiration, or we can lead in a way that ensures the collective benefit comes somewhere remotely near the collective expense. Free college tuition is nice; so is making appropriate choices for your own family, which includes things like figuring out how you are going to cover the costs of educating your children.

I'll be honest: I'd rather see this be income-based free tuition for parents to go to college part-time while working full time, to improve their job prospects, to get a promotion, to earn more money and be able to better take care of themselves.

To me, that seems like a better investment in New York's future.

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