Critics worry this provision could undermine New York’s free college plan

April 12, 2017 | | Market Watch |

New York has been hailed as a progressive state leading others for passing a budget that makes college tuition free for middle-class students.

But a provision inserted into the final version of the plan has even some cheerleaders of New York’s original free college proposal — from earlier this year — alarmed. Students who take the state up on the offer to pay for their schooling will have to live and work in New York after graduation for at least as long as they received the free tuition. Otherwise, the so-called free college turns into a loan. [...]

Instead of clawing back the money New York spends on the program for students who leave, the state could use incentives, such as offering loan forgiveness to students who use the program, but still need to take on debt to pay for living expenses, if they stay in the state, said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank.

“One of the advantages of free college is its simplicity,” said Huelsman, who authored an influential white paper on debt-free college. “There’s a magic to free or debt-free that we haven’t seen in other types of investments, so the more strings that are attached to the program, the less impact it might have.” [...]