‘Free’ college plan by governor is deeply flawed

Posted 12 January 2017 at 7:20 am


Recently Governor Cuomo has been in the local, state and national media for his tuition “free” public college proposal. I am a college-educated millennial and I feel as if the proposal is deeply flawed.

The first flaw is that “free” college is not free. The cost of tuition is simply shifted from the student to taxpayers. The amount of money institutions will spend per student likely will not change. In fact, if recent trends continue, institutions will likely continue to spend more per student. This will create a demand for more state and federal aid. In addition, “free” college will lead to an increase in applicants to public colleges, leading to increased enrollments, which further increases the cost of “free” college.

The second flaw is the idea that this proposal will help the middle class and low-middle class. If public college is made “free”, we will see more students applying to public schools. My instinct is that this increase in applicants will weight SAT and ACT scores more in the admissions process. Students that perform well on these tests tend to be from upper-middle class families that reside in suburban areas. Rural and inner-city students make up the middle class and low-middle class. They do not perform as well on these exams. In essence, the proposal would hurt the very segment of the population that it is aimed to help.

The third flaw is the governor’s failure to consider the impact on private institutions. My belief is that private schools would see a decline in applicants leading to a decrease in enrollment. These private institutions rely heavily on tuition to pay professor salaries and other overhead costs. A decline in tuition would force these institutions to layoff professors and ultimately eliminate programs, reducing opportunities for students.

There is no denying that student debt is crippling my generation. I can confidently say that we all believe a solution needs to be reached. However, I do not believe that this is the solution. After successfully pushing for five consecutive years of SUNY tuition hikes, it seems as if Gov. Cuomo is using this proposal as leverage for a potential 2020 bid for President, or to win over the more liberal base of the Democratic Party for a potential gubernatorial primary in 2018 against Zephyr Teachout. This is an issue that I have thought long and hard about and I strongly believe that Gov. Cuomo and the Democratic Party is wrong on this proposal.


James C. White