NY State Passes ‘Free’ College Bill, Liberals Whine It Is ‘Lame’

Even “free” isn’t good enough for liberals.

New York State’s newly-passed 2018 budget included a provision that will pay for the tuition of residents who attend public colleges in the state, building on some of the ideas promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the campaign. The liberal media praised the government handout and found progressives who still considered it insufficient.

Slate senior business and economics correspondent Jordan Weissmann called the new program “pretty lame,” and immediately focused on the lefties “trashing” the plan.

“In the eyes of free-college advocates, however, the program leaves a lot to be desired. Which is why you may have noticed some progressives trashing the thing on Twitter,” he wrote. He repeated several of their complaints which included that it would help wealthier families more, fail to cover room and board, and “the pointless and parochial requirement that students stay in New York state after graduation for as many years as they received the Excelsior funding.”

The Excelsior Scholarship is estimated to cost $163 million per year and would only apply to students whose parents earn less than $100,000 a year. Other stipulations included earning 30 credits per year, finishing school on time and remaining in New York State two to four years following graduation. The scholarship only covers tuition, not room and board.

Some liberals considered those rules too burdensome.

NPR education blogger Anya Kamenetz quoted “free college” advocate Sara Goldrick-Rab of Temple University who tweeted, "Free college is about moving beyond a complex, untrustworthy aid system. This move perpetuates existing problems."

Huffington Post reporter Lydia O’Connor said the post-graduation requirement to stay in New York State was “alarming to some student aid experts.” But she also found liberal praise for the bill, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who called it “a great step for progressives.”

Absent from many of those stories, was criticism from the other side. American Enterprise Institute research fellow Kevin James challenged free college programs during the campaign in an op-ed for US News & World Report. He wrote that making college free could cause private colleges to “struggle to survive” trying to compete with free state schools and warned it would “significantly reduce pressure on public institutions to serve students effectively.”

The Daily Wire staff writer added a dash of skepticism. Aaron Bandler noted that as more students will attend college for free, the demand would increase and “raise the cost of tuition even higher.”

While Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota already offer free community college, the plan makes New York the first state to offer to pay for four years of public tuition.

James Powers
James Powers is an intern in MRC Business.