Kremer’s Corner: Nothing in life, including ‘free tuition,’ is free

Jerry Kremer

For the past six months, college-bound students have been going through the agonizing experience of finding the college that meets their needs and getting accepted.

This ritual ends in the next few weeks when the students awaiting final acceptances learn their fate.

Even with a final decision, these young people must face the quandary of having enough special aid to enable them to afford their chosen school.

During the first week in April, too much fanfare, the state Legislature, exhausted from days of waiting for their leaders to make last-minute deals, adopted a new budget for the coming year.

There was much good accomplished but one of the actions taken raises serious questions about whether the state Legislature should have had more time to approve a new and dramatic higher education scholarship program.

The law that the governor approved promises to provide tuition-free education for New York college students.

On its face, the idea of free-college tuition for every student attending a state or city university is a very progressive idea.

If a family earns no more than $100,000 a year, their son or daughter will be able to attend a state or New York City college with no tuition charges.

Like many major government programs, there is one omitted feature.

The various charges for living expenses, textbooks and travel, which could be almost as costly as tuition charges, are not included.

The program assumes that each eligible student will be attending college full time and will complete the degree process in four years.

Many poorer families do not have that luxury, as their college bound children can’t complete the degree programs in that period of time.

Students who have to work during the day and attend college at night do not finish their college career in a four-year period.

That is especially the case of students who attend community colleges.

If you are able to get into this new program there is another hitch.

Upon graduating, a participant in the program must remain in New York State for a period of four years.

If you leave to take a job in New Jersey or take advantage of the abundant jobs in the tech industry in California, you lose the free tuition and it is converted into a loan.

There are plenty of jobs in this state, but they have to fit your skills.

If you are trained to work in the hospitality industry, you can’t seek work during those years at an out-of-state job.

This program does nothing for the state’s 131 private colleges.

As a college trustee, I am very much aware of the problems this law causes for the private sector.

Many smaller colleges in this state need a set amount of students to stay alive and the lure of the new program may cause some schools to shut down, depriving students of programs that no other schools offer.

Overall, the idea behind this new program is laudatory.

But the state Legislature should have taken some extra time to craft what could have been an outstanding achievement.

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Jerry Kremer

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