- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Saturday announced a deal with the legislature to make tuition free for students enrolling at CUNY or SUNY whose families earn under $125,000 per year.
- The move is drawing some criticism over the requirement that students stay in New York and contribute to the local economy for an amount of time equal to the number of years they received the aid, Inside Higher Ed reports.
- The program will unroll in three phases, beginning Fall 2017 for students whose families make less than $100,000.
The New York plan models the one Hillary Clinton championed while on the campaign trail, and will boost affordability for middle-class students. Questions remain, however, over how the most vulnerable students will overcome the cost-of-living challenges to be able to take advantage of the plan. And with the requirement to live in New York after graduation, as opposed to moving to more affordable neighborhoods in neighboring states, there are additional questions about whether the aid will really promote the kind of social mobility typically associated with a college degree.
For institutions in states like California, New York and others weighing free college plans, gap funding pools and other forms of minute aid will be increasingly imperative to support student retention and graduation, and to protect the colleges and universities from the damage to these outcome indicators. Free tuition may mean more students enroll, but if key life interruptions — like needing to drop out for a semester to work to pay for a brake job on a student's car or a lack of availability of reliable childcare — arise, these students still may not persist at the levels well-meaning legislators intend.