Free college opportunity may benefit New York

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

Residents of New York may be able to go to college for free.

Any student that commits to living in New York for five years after graduating and 250 hours of community service, will be eligible for free tuition at state schools if a recently proposed bill passes the legislature.

James Skoufis is Tuition Free New York’s primary sponsor. Skoufis is from Orange County and at 26 years old is the youngest member of the Assembly.

The bill also has 40 co-sponsors, including local assembly members Patricia Fahy, Phil Steck, Peter Lopez and Angelo Santabarbara.

Santabarbara gave a presentation about the proposal at Schenectady County Community College on Friday, May 2.

 “I’m a SUNY graduate and I had a tough time getting through school,” said Santabarbara on the financial hardship of paying for college. “It’s a story that many families share throughout the region.”

According to the bill’s supporters, Tuition Free New York will have positive impacts beyond those received by students. Communities will benefit from more volunteers and businesses will benefit from having more college graduates staying to work in New York.

The success of the bill will hinge on whether legislators think it’s benefits are worth the estimated 1.5 billion dollar cost to the state government, amounting to about one percent of the total budget.

If passed, New York would be the only state to provide a free tuition option to all residents.

Santabarbara cited facts to support the increasing burden of high tuition rates during the presentation.

Student loan debt doubled in four years from 2007-2011. Nationwide, there is now over a trillion dollars in total student loan debt. 60 percent of students graduate with debt and the average amount is over $25,000.

“What this bill says is that education is a fundamental right,” said Santabarbara.

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