Cheich Toure & Osman Shire
(Buffalo, N.Y.) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared at SUNY Buffalo State Feb. 7 to promote his proposal to make college tuition free at public institutions for New York’s low-income and middle class residents.
The program would provide free tuition for students in households making less than $125,000 per year at all SUNY and CUNY schools.
“No one is going to be deprived of college because they cannot afford it,” Cuomo told the audience of students and faculty.
Currently, more than 200,000 students at New York state schools would be eligible for the program, which Cuomo estimated would cost about $163 million in the first year.
“A lot of the students in SUNY already come to campus with free tuition. The real issue is can they afford their room and board? Can they afford the fees and books that they need to be successful and to graduate,” said Dr. Fred Floss, chair of the economics department at Buffalo State.
Floss appeared on the Buffalo Review Feb. 9 to discuss the governor’s plan.
“While free tuition sounds good, it’s not free college and everybody should realize that. It’s probably still going to cost about $10,000 a year, which students are either going to have to pay for by working and putting the money in, taking federal loans of certain parts or trying to get some other type of grant,” said Floss.
Families earning under $60,000 a year already have their tuition covered by the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or Pell Grants, but that it would greatly benefit families making between $60,000 and $125,000, according to Floss.
Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner appeared on the Buffalo Review Feb. 9 to share her thoughts on the possibility of free tuition.
Conway-Turner said she supports the plan, as it would provide an education for students who might not otherwise have access to college due to financial difficulties.
Some state lawmakers, including members of the governor’s own party, have criticized Cuomo’s plan. Some have even accused Cuomo of using this as a political ploy, because the governor may be considering running for president in 2020.
However, Conway-Turner disagreed with that criticism.
“Let’s step back from that and say, ‘is this a good thing?’ Whether or not, this is something that would benefit New York, benefit our students and benefit those struggling to pay tuition,” she said.
Another criticism of the plan, is that free tuition may result in a large influx of students that schools may not be able to handle.
“If 5,000 students show up to our doorstep, I don’t know what we’re going to do with them, but we’ll have to see how it all shakes out,” said Conway-Turner.
However, she said Buffalo State would be better equipped to handle an influx of commuter students.
Additionally, Buffalo State provost Melanie Perreault said school officials are working on creating a personalized plan where students would have the price of textbooks lowered, making it more affordable.
“We found that the average Buff State student, who would benefit from this, would save about $2,000 a year and that is a lot over four years,” said Perreault.
* Monique Maxwell, Jess Freda and Joseph Kasko contributed to this report.