Assemblyman Santabarbara: Tuition-Free NY Passes Assembly’s Higher Education Committee

Assemblyman Santabarbara (D-Rotterdam) announced legislation he is sponsoring to provide free tuition to all New York students at SUNY schools if they fulfill community service and residency requirements has moved out of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee (A.8585-B).

“Students deserve degrees, not crushing debt. I’m committed to helping our children gain access to higher education without having to mortgage their futures,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. “Tuition-Free NY is a win-win for students and our communities.”

Higher education has become unaffordable for millions of New Yorkers as the cost of attending college has risen almost four times faster than median incomes over the past 20 years. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, about 60 percent of students in New York State graduate with debt averaging over $25,000.1 Studies also show that student loan debt, which now totals over $1 trillion, has affected students’ decisions about homeownership, career choices and is even deterring those with student loans from starting their own small businesses, adversely impacting not only individual lives, but the economy as a whole.2 Tuition-Free NY would combat these negative trends and ensure that students can graduate without accruing a lifetime of student loan debt.

Under the proposed plan, students would be required to perform a minimum of 250 hours of community service each year to be eligible, giving back to the community while receiving a quality higher education. Additionally, students would be required to live and work in the state for a period of at least five years following graduation, keeping more talent in our area and providing local businesses with a pool of qualified applicants.

This year, Assemblyman Santabarbara supported a state budget that included the New York State STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Incentive Program to provide full SUNY scholarships to the top 10 percent of students in high schools throughout the state who are pursuing a degree in STEM fields. Upon graduation, these students would be required to work in a STEM field within the state for five years, ensuring a skilled labor force for local industries. This is an important step toward making college education affordable, but it’s crucial to build on this positive momentum with the Tuition-Free NY initiative to ensure even greater access, Assemblyman Santabarbara noted.

The Tuition-Free NY plan has already garnered support from local students, parents, professors and members of the community during informational events hosted by Assemblyman Santabarbara at Schenectady County Community College and Fulton-Montgomery Community College earlier this year.