Andrew Cuomo's 'free' tuition program runs dry amid state's COVID financial woes

New York State's free college program is running out of money because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the state, future awards may have to be "reduced and/or prioritized."

As Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pushes his "free" college plan, one state may have to rethink its program because of financial challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

New York State’s “Excelsior Scholarship” provides free tuition at four-year universities to students whose families make less than 125,000 a year. The scholarship is now in jeopardy due to COVID-19’s economic impact on New York State. 

The website for the scholarship states that "awards may have to be reduced and/or prioritized" for people who currently have the scholarship, noting that the coronavirus pandemic has "dramatically" reduced state revenue. According to WWNYTV, the scholarship will be awarded to students for at least the fall semester, but the New York Higher Education Services Corporation told the news outlet that awards could be reduced in the spring semester.

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"Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced state revenues and the processing of new applications is pending on Federal assistance, which has been delayed since April. Excelsior Scholarship awards may have to be reduced and/or prioritized for current recipients as provided for under the program," states the website.

The sudden lack of funding for the program has led one New York college student to question whether free tuition plans are a good idea.

“I do think the government paying for your college is a bad idea” Sereenah George, a New York college student who attends her local community college told Campus Reform. “I looked into the Excelsior scholarship but never even considered applying for it. I am a firm believer in if you want something bad enough, you will work to get it.”
George attends Jefferson Community College to save money. 

“Yes, every student deserves the option to further their education but at what cost? There are many opportunities for students to apply themselves & work for rewarding scholarships rather than just having their entire college tuition handed to them,” said George.

“I think if college was freely handed out to every student, it wouldn’t be taken as seriously as college should be. Then there is also the fact that nothing in life is actually free," said George, referring to how taxpayers indirectly take on the burden.

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When asked if she believes that a nation-wide free tuition plan could face the same problems that now plague the Excelsior scholarship in New York state, George replied “One hundred percent.”

Follow the author of this article: @jacobneer11