Seniors Hopeful for Free College

 

By: Samantha Louis

When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his recent State-of-the-State speech that most New Yorkers should receive free college tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools, junior Keziah Nesbeth felt grateful.

“I’m really happy, because who doesn’t want to go to school for free,” she said. “That’s really amazing.”

In early January, the governor, alongside Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, proposed that all New York students whose families earn $125,000 or less should get go to college for free.

Under Cuomo’s plan, full-time students accepted into a SUNY or CUNY for two-or four-year courses would be able to receive financial aid to cover the costs of their tuition.

If approved by the New York State Legislature, Cuomo’s plan would start in the fall of 2017. That’s bad news for current seniors, but good news for juniors.

“I was going to apply to CUNY and SUNY colleges anyways, so now that tuition is free it makes me want to apply to more,” Nesbeth said.

This plan is available to everyone, although there are certain standards that have to be met in order to qualify for the grant. However, it’s not available to undocumented immigrants or even part-time students, who make up 43 percent of those enrolled in New York State public community colleges.

Junior Crystal Hilton said she feels as if some students would feel excluded.

“I think it’s a great idea but if you also want to make money [while in school] then you’re kind of butt out,” she said.

About 59 percent of students at New York’s four-year colleges graduate with a debt, on average, of about $29,320. Most students have figured out how they plan on paying for college, with financial aid options and scholarships they’ve applied for.

“My mom made sure to remind me to constantly apply for scholarships,” said Chanel Gaither, who is a graduating senior. “We already filled out my FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], but since she is a single parent, her money and what FAFSA provides definitely won’t be enough if I go where I planned on attending.”

Sophomore Angelica James said if the governor’s plan is passed than there certainly is less for her to worry about.

“I won’t have to worry so much about the financial part of getting into college, only about getting my grades up,” said James.

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