Tennessee became the first state to offer tuition-free community college back in 2015. Now, New York has furthered the free higher-education pursuit by becoming the first state to offer free two and four-year college, and while it’s got some road bumps to clear, the struggle is worth it.
In terms of scope, NPR calls this venture America’s “largest experiment” when it comes to offering free tuition and bringing this project to fruition further exemplifies the value that the American people place on education.
While it has many conditions tacked along to it, The Excelsior Scholarship is the beginning of a wonderful future for Americans who want to attend college.
Giving low-income citizens an opportunity to attain a higher education without the thought of endless loans over their heads is what the country needs to thrive. This will also set a precedent for the future, when hopefully, all college tuition in the nation is free.
And although this is a great step in American education, there will be hurdles that need to be overcome. However, practice makes perfect and focusing on faults within its stipulations rather than the positive elements will get us nowhere.
Although one of the first critiques of this bill is that it requires students to attend full time and finish within four years, it is a stipulation that is meant to increase graduation rates and act as an incentive for finishing. It could be difficult for students who have children, who have to work or who have mental health conditions, but it can also be a means of motivation for success.
For those who started college in 2008, only 39.8 percent of students graduated in four years, with the majority 59.4 percent graduating in 2014, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Despite the hesitation, there is no doubt that this scholarship, paid for within the state’s budget, will help provide an education to a large number of people. Almost 1 million New York families stand to benefit from the bill, according to the Washington Post.
The good thing about America and its legislation is that it can be updated and improved upon. Other states can look to New York and use the foundations of this program to make even better legislation for their own constituents.
So much can be solved by offering people free higher education, but the government and private colleges have to realize the selfishness in attaching a ball and chain of debt to a student until they die.
And even then, the loans still don’t go away. Someone else has to fit the bill. Federal loans can get written off but not private loans. Considering the average American dies with at least $62,000 dollars in debt, according to 2016 data from credit bureau Experian, it shouldn’t be shocking why so many pass on going to college in the first place.
The cost of college in America has increased by more than 500 percent since 1985, causing many people to choose other paths besides college—the U.S. used to be ranked No. 1 in the world when it comes to four-year degrees among 25 to 34 year olds, but today, it is ranked 12th behind Korea, Japan, Norway and Russia, according to Value Colleges. America should not be in 12th place and hopefully this bill can help the Empire State rectify America’s position on top.
As of now, for those who do decide to go to college, 44.2 million Americans are in debt from student loans with a collective total of $1.41 trillion owed, according to Student Loan Hero.
The standard repayment plan of 10 years is not nearly enough seeing as the average college graduate takes 21 years to pay off loans, affecting their ability to own a house or a car, according to research done by One Wisconsin Institute and ProgressNow Education.
And to top it off, in today’s economy and job circuit, it is next to impossible to find a stable job with a livable wage without a college degree.
America clearly needs to address this problem, and New York is a vital part of the process that will lead to the entire nation following in its footsteps.