April 9, 2017 (New York, NY) -- Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Research at Demos, released the following statement after New York became the first state in the country to pass tuition-free college:
"We applaud New York for taking the college affordability crisis seriously. By providing a guarantee of free tuition for middle and working class families, this bill represents a step forward in returning to the days when students could work their way through public college without taking on debt. But because the bill is what’s known as a “last-dollar” program, meaning tuition is waived only after all available grant aid is applied to the bill, the impact on reducing the need to borrow may be minimal, especially for first-generation, low-wealth students. The reality of the college affordability crisis is that half of the cost of going to college are related to expenses other than tuition. New York State’s program could be more beneficial for struggling students by waiving tuition upfront and allowing grant aid to cover other college costs such as books, fees and living expenses. A true guarantee for debt-free public college, as Demos proposes, acknowledges this reality and would promise a return to the days when a student could simply work a part-time job to complete their degree without taking out debt.
"We thank Governor Cuomo and Senator Sanders for their leadership and action on this issue, and urge New York and other states to provide greater investment in low-income students and ensure that all college costs, not just tuition, are addressed through state and federal aid.
"And as states begin to lead the way with plans to remedy the growing college debt crisis we urge Congress to pass a national bill to create a federal-state partnership to reinvigorate investment in higher education and guarantee debt-free college for all."