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Another Voice: Making college affordable for all in New York State

By Katherine Conway-Turner

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget includes a means to close the tuition gap for students enrolled in public colleges and universities. This new program, called the Excelsior Scholarship, will effectively provide a tuition-free college degree for students from middle- and working-class families.

Most undergraduate students seeking their first degree will not have to pay out of pocket for tuition.
You might wonder why this is important and what difference this scholarship will make. If the reception the governor received earlier this month from SUNY Buffalo State students when he announced the program on our campus is any indication, it will have a tremendous impact.

Students smiled, cheered and enthusiastically listened to the governor’s plan. They rejoiced when they learned that families with incomes up to $125,000 would be eligible; they applauded the state of New York for investing in them to become future leaders; and they celebrated the fact that they would begin a life after college that was free of debt associated with tuition costs.

The Excelsior Scholarship will make a difference in the lives of the many students who struggle to pay tuition costs, and it will allow students to move more quickly toward degree completion. This new scholarship, coupled with completion initiatives such as Buffalo State’s Roar in 4 plan, provide students with a clear path and greater incentives to graduate in four years, and, in turn, keep loan debt to a minimum.

State support for public higher education is the great equalizer. It sits on the firm and correct understanding that college education is good for the individual, for the state of New York and for the country.

Investing in public education means that the state is a willing and committed partner with our families to develop the next generation of individuals who will open businesses, develop new innovations and run the myriad of operations in every field that will allow our state and country to survive and excel. Investment in public higher education pays off for everyone.

The Excelsior Scholarship closes the tuition gap so that “affordable for most” becomes “affordable for all.”

As Buffalo State and our sister institutions work to provide a world-class education at an affordable price, we call on the state to continue to advance its support for higher education.

As operating costs have increased and negotiated salary increases have gone unfunded in recent years, we are counting on the governor and other elected officials to restore its “maintenance of effort.”

Innovative ideas like the Excelsior Scholarship, capital investments and new resources to keep pace with our always changing environments will allow SUNY to continue to deliver outstanding, relevant and responsive degrees that will make the economic engine of New York purr and move ahead to greatness.

Katherine Conway-Turner is president of SUNY Buffalo State.

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