Excelsior injects life into New York state

Investment in the future success of New York state must begin with a solid foundation of educated adults. According to a report published by the Economic Policy Institute in 2013, the strength and productivity of a state’s economy is directly correlated to the wages earned by its populace. Because wage levels themselves are so closely linked to the education levels of a populace, a highly educated population is closely linked to the success of a state.

There is no better way to encourage young people to attend college in New York state than the Excelsior Scholarship, which debuted in the current Fall 2017 college semester.

According to statistics released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office earlier this month, over 210,000 CUNY and SUNY students will attend college tuition-free this academic year, including an estimated 45,000 students who were deemed eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship.

To receive the scholarship, students were required to meet several need-based qualifications, including having a family income of $100,000 or less. To maintain the scholarship, students must also earn at least 12 course credits per semester and 30 course credits throughout the entirety of the academic year, among other qualifications.

One of the most important yet overlooked stipulations of the Excelsior Scholarship does not concern recipients until after graduation. After finishing school, scholars must live and work in New York state for the number of years equal to the amount of time for which they received the scholarship.

For example, someone who receives the Excelsior Scholarship for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years and graduates in May 2019 must work and remain a resident in New York state until at least May 2021. Graduates who violate this will have their scholarship converted into an interest-free loan.

Despite some arguing that this stipulation is unfair and restricting, it is a small price to pay to ensure that the Excelsior Scholarship succeeds in its goal of producing educated and wealthy New York state residents. It also discourages students who might otherwise abuse the system by moving to New York just for their tenure at CUNY or SUNY and then leaving the state as soon as they graduate, effectively taking their knowledge, wealth and tax dollars to benefit a different state or even country.

With a cycle like this in place, current New York taxpayers should not fear their money going to waste. In fact, taxpayers should feel fulfilled with the knowledge that their taxes are funding the next wave of productive, wealthy New Yorkers, as well as investing in the continued success of their home state.

Considering that the CUNY system was built on the idea that cheap or free college education is a right and not a privilege, it is unfortunate that the university system has been without a free tuition program until now.

Although the amount of students benefiting from the Excelsior Scholarship are just a drop in the bucket compared to the 400,000 total full-time students attending CUNY and SUNY colleges, there is no doubt that the scholarship is an enormous step in the right direction by the New York state government.