Sunday, February 12, 2017

Letter to Editor of Times Union "Cuomo's tuition plan only for political gain" by Bernard Gassaway

 Published 3:34 pm, Saturday, February 4, 2017

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's latest proposal, the Excelsior Scholarship, like some of his previous education-related proposals, seems to ignore research. Cuomo may be gambling with taxpayer funds to further his political ambitions.

His latest proposal is to make community college free for individuals and families whose income is less than $125,000. Other than grabbing headlines for a few days, does Cuomo's proposal have merit? Irrespective of cost, roughly one-quarter of new community college students leave after one semester. Further, available data show that less than 40 percent of those enrolling in community college graduate within six years.

According to some studies, at least 50 percent of students who enroll in community college might require at least one remedial course. Students who take remedial courses are less likely to graduate than those who don't.

Based on the abysmal success rate of poor and minority community college students, many of whom serve to benefit from the proposal, Cuomo should work with the Legislature and colleges and universities to improve K-12 public education, which would reduce the need for costly remediation. It's not feasible to provide a free education to students who may not be prepared to take advantage of it.

Since Cuomo did not provide any details about his proposal, it is difficult to determine if he plans to tie performance indicators to the tuition funding. Cuomo's Excelsior Scholarship may be putting the cart before the horse.

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