Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship will only benefit some

Why the Excelsior Scholarship isn’t all it’s cracked up to be


James Janik/Record file photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Buffalo State to detail his upcoming NYS budget and his economic plans for Western New York.

Brian Harrell, Reporter

Education has become somewhat of a specter here in America. There is a notion that everyone should be wasting time pursuing tax-funded fraud degrees that don’t guarantee you a fast food job resulting in un-payable loans.

The education system has implemented a Sallie Mae mob-style hospitality. Navient deliberately exploits millions of humans by reducing them to data points and phone numbers to be bought, sold or passed on without consent, all the while shackling them in thousands of dollars in debt simply because they pursued an education that politicians recognize as necessary in order to become a functioning part of the new economy and lift themselves up from poverty.

For some reason which I’m sure exists, our overlords decided that K-12 education would be police-enforced and mandatory, and any form of higher education strictly be left for those who whose parents have dealerships and legacies.

To suggest that college could be free and cheap was met with laughter, eye rolls, budget infographs — or worst of all — being called a socialist. Yet — this last election — not only were socialists allowed to walk around when the sun was out, one Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. made it all the way to the semifinals, and ran on a very potent and politically viable platform.

In essence, it boiled down to “If America is the wealthiest nation on the planet, why must our people fight and compete for less than is available in most developed nations for free?”

Alas, this particular election didn’t favor those whom proposed complex policy or spoke full sentences, but his message didn’t fall on deaf ears. In walks the “Excelsior Scholarship” — a newly passed legislation that will apply to families making less than $125,000 a year.

It will be phased over three years and will begin this year, but will only apply to families making up to 100k. The legislation is being dubbed “tuition-free education” and has the potential to affect a large population of New York State, so it’s being praised as a tremendous victory in the fight for education as a human right.

I agree that this is definitely a small step forward, but is hardly the “Battle at Gettysburg” in the fight for universal education.

The state of New York has a history of tuition-free while not necessarily inclusive programs. For example, the flagship CUNY system “The City College of New York”, aka “the working man’s Harvard,” was tuition free until the 1970s. However, it took the struggle of the civil rights movement to get them to open their doors to a more diverse student body through the then-revolutionary policy of open admissions.

So, for a time, there was a university system which accepted any and paid for all. It turns out tuition is a fairly new concept — showing up in this case in the 1970s. Those in favor of free tuition systems have been waging war against the establishment ever since.

This raises questions such as “What makes a public university public?” If a public university isn’t open to all, then “public” is just a euphemism for worse than private.

The concept of free tuition is one we owe to generations of nameless activists and faculty unions that, until recently, were met by the establishment with police resistance. The idea that it is now being gifted to us by the benevolent Governor Cuomo, his father before him, and other administrators is disingenuous and undermines the effort and real aims behind the countless protesters who have refused to compromise on the idea of education as a human right for generations.

The Excelsior Scholarship is an idea so New York it took a an old Jewish Brooklynite ranting about how much better it was in the old country to sell it to us.

Of course, it goes without saying that tuition is hardly the only variable in the cost of attending a modern American college, and the scholarship is not without its caveats.

For instance, not everyone making less than $125,000 a year would qualify. The governor’s proposal is a “last dollar” program, meaning it will only apply once all other forms of government aid have been applied. So, of those 80,000 projected effected students, a majority of them already attend university at no tuition costs due to financial aid already available thanks to existing state and federal aid program. Also it caps off at $125,000, as if someone making $126,000 couldn’t benefit from this.

Another important thing to note is that those that receive the scholarship must stay in New York for as many years as they received the scholarship. So despite New York being a sanctuary city and having a strong undocumented student movement, the undocumented cannot partake in the scholarship. So while this is appears to be a step forward, we are in reality back to square one, and the fight for the ideals of the American Revolution wages on.

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