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Another Voice: New York has another free tuition option

By Bassam M. Deeb

No one can argue the value of a college education in today’s economic landscape.

The job market continues to change at a dramatic pace and demand for individuals with a certain level of college education is increasing. The degree is important, but regardless of the cost of tuition, what good is it without the requisite and in-demand skills and experience to get employed?

One thing is for sure and that is we need to do a better job to align higher education academic program offerings and what we teach in the classroom with the demands of the job market.

There is no better example of this at the moment than the state-funded Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program.

Trocaire College, a small, private institution in the City of Buffalo, was the first institution of higher education in Western New York to participate in the P-TECH program.

Participation in the program involves a collaborative partnership with Lackawanna High School, Erie 1 BOCES and the Catholic Health System.

It is a simple approach. It is about public and private partnerships working to create a pipeline of highly educated and highly motivated students, starting in the ninth grade taking the required classes, then easing them into the higher education environment.

Upon graduation, these students are given first preference for hiring by a private-sector employer. Tuition is free for the student.

We are currently in year three of the six-year cohort, and in time will soon see some of our very first graduates.

The goal of our P-TECH program is to prepare students to enter the growing health care sector with the education and skills necessary to meet the demands of one of the region’s largest health care system employers.

While students are in our program, they receive the benefits of a small college community. They experience a hands-on, real-world educational environment that offers incredibly personalized attention, and faculty and staff who are dedicated to student success. We help our students achieve what they may have believed was not possible.

We are highly concerned that free college tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools as part of the recently passed state budget will jeopardize P-TECH. We would argue that more competitive grants should be made available to address the underlying arguments for free public tuition, which is the timely completion of a college degree and reduced student debt.

New York State has in place a good option that we should see through. Otherwise, we will be known as the state that likes to start initiatives and never commit to completing them.
P-TECH has great value, and we see this every day in our students’ learning experience.

Bassam M. Deeb, Ph.D., has been the president of Trocaire College since 2012. He previously served in the SUNY system for eight years.

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