Cuomo tuition plan wins high marks from Brooklyn pols

Cornegy says, ‘Education is a critical pathway to success’

January 4, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Thousands of students will be able to attend Brooklyn College and other institutions of higher learning if a plan by Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes a reality. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bold proposal to offer free tuition to undergraduates attending schools in the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems is earning him straight A’s from Brooklyn lawmakers.

Under Cuomo’s plan, announced on Jan. 3, students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year would be eligible for free tuition and state and city colleges and universities. Cuomo is calling his proposal the Excelsior Scholarship Program.

Councilmember Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant) was among the Brooklyn elected officials praising the plan. “Education is a critical pathway to success. Gov. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program expounds upon the work of my colleagues in the City Council who are working together to provide educational equity to all New Yorkers. The Excelsior Scholarship will allow many more to afford a college education in our CUNY and SUNY schools,” he said.

Cuomo, who hopes to implement the new policy in the fall pending approval by the state Legislature, estimated that 940,000 students would be eligible for the program.

“A college education is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility, and with these first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarships, we’re providing the opportunity for New Yorkers to succeed, no matter what zip code they come from and without the anchor of student debt weighing them down,” Cuomo said in a statement.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) was with Cuomo at the announcement. Sanders had made issues facing college students a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.

State Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Williamsburg-Bushwick) said the program would have a positive impact. “Far too many young people in North Brooklyn believe that a college degree is unattainable because of cost. And those that have worked long and hard to graduate find it even harder to manage crippling student debt and steady work. It is a reality that I am familiar with. As a parent, I have witnessed it. As a member of the Legislature, I hear from countless students who feel they cannot reach their dreams, much less pursue them. We have a responsibility to ensure a brighter future for our students and I don’t see any reason why New York state can’t help guarantee that,” he said.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-Park Slope, Sunset Park) called for Cuomo’s program to be expanded to offer additional financial aid to students leaving the foster care system. “Young people coming out of foster care may need additional support to take advantage of tuition-free, public higher education. The costs of room and board, books and other necessary college supplies may pose obstacles to these young people that the proposed Excelsior Scholarships should take into account,” he said.

“This plan would not only make a difference in the lives of those who would be able to expand their scholarly and economic opportunities, it would also create a competitive advantage for our state,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Greenpoint-DUMBO). “By ensuring college graduates can avoid exorbitant debt, we empower individuals to take risks like starting a business, or serve the community through the nonprofit and public sector.”

Borough President Eric Adams also lauded the proposal.

“I look forward to supporting my colleagues in the state Legislature as they work through the finer details of this proposal, starting with an ask for them to review a report prepared by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), at my request, on the economic feasibility of tuition-free community college. It is clear we need to evaluate the cost and design of this program, including how it will best advance academic achievement, in order for it to be the success New Yorkers need it to be,” he said.

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