Earlier this week, I blogged about New York’s ‘free’ college tuition initiative. Not only is there no such thing as a free lunch, there’s definitely no such thing as a free government offering as The Excelsior Scholarship illustrates.

Among the many strings attached to the tuition program, one of the most unrealistic is the requirement that tuition recipients serve state work time after graduation. Those finishing a two-year degree would be required to remain in New York for two years post-college while bachelor degree holders would be required to stay in the Empire State (presumably working) for four years. Leave before the state-mandated time and the scholarship turns into a loan that must be paid back.

New York’s Director of the Division of Budget in the Governor’s office read our post and offered an alternative explanation to the unworkable (as I called it) tuition program. For debate’s sake, we’ve posted his response in full beneath.

To the Editor:

Even to the uniformed, requiring students to complete their college degrees on-time shouldn’t seem like a stretch. But alas, many don’t know that New York’s current college graduation rates, while similar to those nationwide, are abysmal at 9 percent at community colleges and approximately 40 percent at four-year schools.

Here’s a little common sense: The more time students spend in school, the more debt they incur and the less likely they become to complete their degrees at all.

The first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship program is designed to change that behavior and encourage students to complete college within two to four years, so we can move our best-educated students into the workforce to fill the high-paying jobs of tomorrow.

Moreover, this $163 million program is a major investment in New York’s future. By ensuring these highly-qualified students live and work in-state for the number of years they receive the scholarship, we are guaranteeing this investment pays dividends right here at home.

Additionally, many scholarships today already require post-graduate residency in New York State. The STEM Incentive Program and the Master’s in Education Teacher Incentive Scholarship requires students to live and work in New York for at least five years upon graduation.

Contrary to what some critics are saying, the program is also flexible. Students are allowed to attend graduate programs, law school, fellowships or complete military service out of state and return years later. Extenuating circumstances will also be evaluated on a case by case basis as the program’s aim is to maximize the benefit to New Yorkers and move the Empire State’s economy forward.

The bottom line: The Excelsior Scholarship is a game-changing investment in New York’s students and the future of our state that will provide a gateway to higher education and a shot in the arm to our economy. It’s a win-win that must be celebrated.

Robert Mujica
NYS Director of the Division of Budget
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

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