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Editorial: What does free education in N.Y. mean for W.Va.?


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When Bernie Sanders proposed free higher-education for college students, it was one of his plans you could most likely put to the side as, “That would be nice but…” or simply view as a pipedream.

But that dream may come to fruition in New York State. New York has a very unique state school system where there are 64 campuses across the state that fall under the SUNY (State University of New York) umbrella. That’s not including the CUNY (City University of New York) schools in New York City.

With the newest budget proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all state/city two-year and four-year schools will offer free tuition to families receiving less than $100,000 in annual income. That will change next year to families making less than $125,000. New York is the first state to approve a universal education system like this.

The Excelsior Scholarship is what this plan is being called by Cuomo and will be included into the FASFA for incoming freshman. This will only apply to students who are residents of New York and attend school in the state school system. The state has also proposed an $8 million budget for electronic books to lower costs for students.

“What high school school was 75 years ago is what college is today,” Cuomo said. “College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success.”

This has been the biggest step towards universal education, and with the $153 billion budget passing, tax rates are guaranteed to go up in the coming year. But when you weigh the pros this could be huge for the state of New York and may be something for the state of West Virginia to consider.

When looking at the Excelsior Scholarship’s surface you see a jump in taxes and a small group reaping the benefits. And sure, one could argue how many people can actually afford to live in New York (one of the top five most expensive states to live in) and make less than $125,000, implying that this will only help the lower-class families of New York.

But what comes from this is retention. The idea of keeping students in the state and having them go to school in New York will keep them from leaving when they graduate high school, which West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has made one his main priorities.

Justice has repeated his frustration with students leaving the state to go to school or work somewhere that is more populated and appealing. We won’t be able to see this for at least a few years but Cuomo believes this will keep students in New York and working. New York also saw an alarming amount of students leave the state this past year and this can be a way of combating that in the future.

The other problem it would solve in West Virginia would be the lack of students attending college and graduating. West Virginia comes in 48th in the country for graduation rates according to the U.S. Department of Education and much of this is due to cost of tuition and students being unable to afford all four years.

In the next year, we will use New York and its college tuition plan like we did Colorado and Washington for recreational marijuana. As a sort of “lab rat,” that may influence other states to follow in its footsteps. Maybe West Virginia will be one of those states.

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