The Flaky NYS “Free Tuition Deal”

While everyone else is jumping for joy in New York State after the “free tuition deal” being announced, I am skeptical. Free tuition will not solve the lack of opportunities in the New York area. Sorry, but it is true. What if there is a large number of graduates now leveling the playing field, and the truth is they may go to college for free but they won’t make as much as they think they should. They will put years into an education, losing wages, and discover their skills will pay only dollars more than a occupation at a drive thru. Why you ask? Because let’s say if Sally walks in for an interview, she has a Bachelors she didn’t pay for, and puts she desires $20.00 per hour. Then let’s say Susan walks in for the same interview with the education she didn’t pay for, and she asks for $15.00 per hour. Both have similar skills, great personalities, and the same educational background. If you honestly believe an employer is going to pay someone more for no reason at all, then you are quite mistaken. In an economy where corporations rule I highly doubt they will not cut labor expenses if they can. Which is essentially cutting the value of your skills on a chopping block.

The recent but previous generation has been burdened by student debt more than any other generation. Although many are ashamed to admit, I believe they do not feel as if their education was worth the expense, the “skills” they obtained, the lack of instruction given, and the poorly designed curriculum. Many are lost in occupations they did not intend to be in. They pay as much as they can on student loans and most have signed up for the Income Based Repayment Plan if they are eligible (I would hope by now). I sympathize with those in these situations. Currently the norm seems to be criticizing those with the so called “useless degrees” instead of criticizing the higher powers that hold let’s say the puppet strings in society. But the scary reality is: No one is safe is this kind of economy. BAE will lay off thousands of engineers and most likely will not replace all of them this week. Why? I personally think there is a lack of contracts. No contracts equals no money. When your own government cannot contract a company, it is difficult to determine which field in the future will have the highest demand. It is almost like gambling in my eyes and actually hinders development in society. This could also explain why the United States is behind in technological advancements when we were once pioneers. By the time some graduate from certain studies, the field is saturated, thus hindering people’s potential to work together and learn.

Also there are times when the curriculum changed (new discoveries), and/or new majors are offered which previously were not. And some of these changes should be expected of course with the evolution of knowledge and information. However, I would argue the previous cost of an education was inflated since the late 1980’s and has absolutely nothing to do with knowledge but rather a business-like mentality. And this increase in cost, did not correlate with an increase in incomes and costs of living. It was an unjustifiable, unnatural, orchestrated upheaval of the future generations ability to even mortgage a home. And have a somewhat “normal” standard of living if they are contributing to society and paid for an education.

The new “free tuition” in New York State will require students to work in the state for as long as they attend college in the state. So if a student intends to do a Bachelors, expect to try to keep employment for four years in NYS. If the state becomes too saturated with graduates, the more competitive the job market will become,so keep this is mind. If one decides to work in another state be prepared for the tuition cost to be converted to loans. Essentially a former student may end up working a job in New York they do not like or is out of the original field intended, just to satisfy the requirements of the Excelsior Scholarship. If a graduate does not work, somehow ends up living with someone rent free and dependent (parents, relatives, partners). No fear, you will just have to depend on them and sit in their basement for the amount of time you took the scholarship for. Don’t worry, you can fantasize about having a normal life in the meantime and try to maintain your mental health (That’s sarcasm if you don’t get the drift).
By the way, a student will also have to maintain a passing grade throughout the undergraduate degree, or face conversion to loans and/or a lack of assistance paying your tuition bill (depending on the circumstances). Thirty credits must be completed yearly (at least 12 per semester). At at community college, most classes with a lab are 4 credits, most without are 3. A student would have to take 3 lab classes and a 3 credit class. Or five, 3 credit classes. Or they could attempt taking classes during the summer but financial aid can be limited. This makes it difficult for those who must work full time and attend part time classes. Most who come from difficult circumstances, do not have the support to be able to take advantage of this opportunity. Leaving this open to those who come from already supportive households and environments with essentially a “boost” into the competitive job market I would argue. Thus, creating more of division between those born into unfortunate circumstance versus those born into more fortunate circumstances.

I find this requirement troubling for many reasons. If students are required to maintain a certain GPA and take full time credits, but say something happens where they must drop a class because they just do not click with the professor, the class was cancelled, and/or the student will not pass. Pell and TAP have their own requirements, and possible financial ramifications if you must drop a class. The college should be able to provide enough information to a student for them to make an informed decision. It is definitely better to withdrawal than take a failing grade on a transcript in my opinion. However, if a student withdrawals and must take a course over again for whatever reasons, it is difficult to say if that course would fulfill the thirty credit a year requirement twice? I would not think so. This realistically leaves very little room for any errors to occur throughout the year. Leaving the question of will students attempt to cram classes to make up for the loss in credits if they had to withdraw from a class? Will this cramming lead to lower GPAS? Also, will those from having to work and go to college at the same time, attempt to do both in order to take advantage of the free tuition, and end up overwhelmed by the 30 credits a year? It could very well happen. Why pay for part time when you could go full time for free is what most people would think. Personally, I spent my undergraduate with a lack of sleep and coffee to save money so I don’t blame anyone for trying.

Another concern I have is an influx in enrollment. Obviously colleges may attempt to allow more students per class and who knows if they will hire enough teachers?! This could jeopardize the quality of the education, leaving many students without enough direction and feeling neglected. Teachers could become overworked and stressed if they do not have any assistance.

Will an education matter if students are just sitting there for the free tuition, crammed into a small classroom with one teacher, who is overwhelmed? I doubt it.
One more thing. The Enhanced tuition award is a separate award that is intended to give incentive to those enrolled in private institutions to keep paying outrageous tuition costs. But a student can only receive up to $6,000 if they are paying for a private college and the parents must meet income requirements. They must complete 30 credits a year. The amount will depend on your ETA award and TAP award amounts. This will not be enough incentive for those to justify paying nothing or a huge amount to a private college. Parents will likely make their children choose a state university or they will end up paying a substantial amount more than state students who pay nothing. In the job market though, obviously an employer will most likely chose someone from a private university, knowing they actually paid for their education and come from a supportive background. This could essentially limit the playing field in certain fields to those who were willing to pay for their education. And then guess what? You have a bunch of educated people working at walmart with their “free education.” Will it be a blessing to be free or a curse in the end? Does it have value if it is free?

I am sure there are those who have currently paid for a bachelors within the state who have questions and/or issues with this scholarship as well. Some who would love to go back to college for a change in career path. It is understandable, considering some programs were not offered in the past and the job market has drastically changed. Sorry, but the Excelsior Scholarship will not apply to a second degree even if you paid for the first one fully in loans. So if you were one of the students never receiving much in grants because your parent/s income had to be reported until your 24 on the FAFSA; then I sympathize and empathize as well. I find this an incredibly oppressive thing to do to former graduates of NYS, who simply followed the application processes, only to become it seems a student debt statistic. Would it have made sense to alleviate some debt off of the previous generation of students or at least offer this opportunity? Especially to former graduates who still reside in NY and have worked in NYS ever since? Loan forgiveness has not been extended to before December 2013 by NY, yet they offer free tuition? Interesting. Have former indebted NYS students not paid enough for tuition and taxes in the past to not be able to take advantage of this opportunity? So I ask those, who believe education should be free; at what cost should it be free? The cost of your fellow American? Maybe your sibling who is in debt? Maybe a relative you know? Maybe a friend? Because not everyone was able to obtain an education for free even though they came from an unfortunate set of circumstances. So to attempt to make things right by forgetting what has happened in the past is no way to fund and “fix” the future of education. And it isn’t just about the past, it is about the future generation. If the classrooms become too congested, teachers cannot keep up and everyone suffers. The quality of the education is depreciated which solves nothing, and could potentially amount in another student loan bubble in the future.

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