Free College Tuition Soon to Be Reality in New York

Andrew Cuomo

By Luke Henderson

The New York state Assembly and Senate are expected to take a vote before Monday on the recent budget that includes covering the cost of tuition for two-year and four-year colleges for New York residents. Governor Andrew Cuomo reached an agreement with budget makers for a program that would allow students whose family makes less $125,000 a year (starting in 2019) the ability to attend a NY state university tuition free.

However, the program would not cover the estimated $15,520 costs of State universities and $12,390 cost of city universities for room and board, fees, and books and with this new subsidy, students can more than likely expect the costs of attending college to rise under this new program.

A Wall Street Journal article found that “The federal government has boosted aid to families in recent decades to make college more affordable. A new study from the New York Federal Reserve faults these policies for enabling college institutions to aggressively raise tuitions.” The article continues to suggest that the government is pricing citizens out of the education market and that this reminds them of the implications of the housing bubble.

That same study stated “We find that institutions more exposed to changes in the subsidized federal loan program increased their tuition disproportionately around these policy changes, with a sizable pass-through effect on tuition of about 65 percent.”

The population of New York can expect this program to become more and more expensive each year leading the state government to increase taxes or to become fully authoritarian against universities. If that doesn’t occur, then increases in fees, books and on-campus housing are sure to increase to make up the difference of lost tuition funds.

The program would also give a maximum reward of $3000 to students who attend private institutions and force these schools to freeze tuition rates for each student and match the grant. Beyond the obvious state overreach of a private institution, the tuition freeze per student policy would be a record keeping nightmare for those colleges. Mary Beth Labate, the president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York stated in response to the program “This would be bureaucratically difficult. Colleges would have to ask if it was worth it.”

By forcing private universities to freeze their tuition, they would have to hire more employees to keep track of all the different tuition rates and have less freedom to adjust prices to meet market demands. Once again, the government would be increasing prices by adding red tape and bureaucratic nonsense.

Time magazine finds that the program would also mostly benefit middle class families making between $80,000 to $125,000 who would not otherwise qualify for Pell Grants. Low-income families already have most of their tuition covered by these grants, and with the new program being a last-dollar scholarship, it would only cover what tuition is left effectively not helping poor families.

What would help bring the cost of college would be to cease subsidizing tuition and allow the universities to compete for students. The invisible hand of supply and demand would take over and lower rates as more consumers demand affordable education. Gov. Cuomo’s heart is in the right place, but he may doing more harm than good.

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