After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to make college more accessible to middle class students in state and city universities in the state, Cornell has started to work with the government to determine how his plan will affect its three undergraduate contract colleges.
If Cuomo’s plan is enacted, families that earn $125,000 or less a year with students currently enrolled in public universities, including community colleges, will receive help from the state to pay tuition. This will be done through supplements in existing state and federal grant programs.
How this plan will impact Cornell’s statutory colleges — which include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Human Ecology and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations — remains uncertain.
“We applaud Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers for making access to higher education a leading issue this legislative session,” said John Carberry, Cornell senior director of media relations. “We are now working with the Governor and the Legislature to understand the various implications of the proposals being considered in Albany, and look forward to playing an active part in this ongoing conversation.”
Jim Malatras, director of New York state operations, said the initial estimate of the number of families the program will help was about one million, but the actual number of students who would be receiving tuition-free education is about 200,000.
Cuomo’s plan has received support from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as well as the United University Professions.
While United University Professions — composed of 35,000 faculty members across New York State campuses — has stated that they do support Cuomo’s plan, they are also arguing that more full-time faculty is necessary to increase the quality of education at CUNY and SUNY schools.
Cuomo’s proposal is similar to the one Sanders suggested for Vermont. He has called Cuomo’s plan “a revolutionary idea for higher education.” The idea also resembles existing programs in Tennessee and Oregon that help cover the costs of community college.
Cuomo was inspired to act by the rise in tuition in the state and city university system but fall in reputation over the past decade. According to Malatras, many students across the country leave college with at least $30,000 in debt.
“This society should say, ‘We’re going to pay for college because you need college to be successful,’” Cuomo said. “And New York State is going to do something about it.”
Cuomo said that the program will start with a three-year rollout beginning in the fall, with a $100,000 income limit, rising to $125,000 by 2019.