Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship breaks new ground conceptually and elevates the idea that public college should be free. It has the potential to lift barriers to college attendance and change the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. But it is unclear how the proposed $163 million is adequate to cover the cost.
Free college tuition is only half of the solution. A progressive vision for New York’s middle class should include not just a college education, but a high-quality college education. Important as investment in college affordability is, it does not substitute for desperately needed investment in basic operating funds. We are disappointed that the proposed Executive Budget appears to decrease public investment in CUNY’s senior colleges and appears to propose the sale of CUNY assets to “partially offset State support for CUNY.” We await the details of the plan.
More than a half-million New Yorkers, mainly low- and middle-income New Yorkers, depend on CUNY for a route to a secure future and good life. Yet CUNY has suffered from years of underfunding, including under Governor Cuomo, which has led to a decline in per-student support.
Policymakers must seize the opportunity created by the Governor’s Excelsior Scholarship proposal and offer a bold plan to restore full funding to CUNY.
We support the Governor’s call to pass the DREAM Act this year. Access to State financial aid for undocumented students, who are among the hardest-working and courageous at CUNY, should be part of any college tuition support proposal.