Students, lawmakers remain skeptical of Gov. Cuomo’s ‘free tuition’ plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes free tuition announcement alongside 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

As it turns out — free college doesn’t mean ‘free’ college. Whether it’s a discussion about the way New York would pay for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal — or the fact that the ‘free’ tuition concept leaves out an estimated 66 percent of total cost for a college degree.

Covering the cost of tuition would be great for students eager to gain a degree and enter the workforce – a variety of other factors contribute to the massive cost associated with a college education.

As the AP noted in a story featured this weekend many students going through college struggle with room and board — as well as books and other educational expenses. That means a staggering amount of debt remains.

Take Brooklyn College senior Florencia Salinas, who despite having her tuition nearly covered in full through scholarships and grants, still expects to graduate with a daunting $50,000 in debt. Or Buffalo State College junior Avery Edwards, who despite similar financial aid expects to owe $20,000 after collecting his degree next year.”

Lawmakers are also split on the concept. While the proposed plan would benefit those who fall into the income category of less than $125,000 — others have discussed plans to mitigate the overall burden.

Specifically, they frequently look at the raw revenue being generated by these universities and how it could potentially be utilized to reduce overall costs in the future.

Tuition cost increases have made headlines — but that isn’t the only cost associated with education that has skyrocketed. The cost of books, housing and other items have all added to the “reported” burden.

Student loan debt by the numbers:

– $1.26 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
– 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt
– Student loan delinquency rate of 11.1%
– Average monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $351
– Median monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $203

Here’s how that breaks down by loan program:

– Direct Loans – $911.6 billion; 30.5 million borrowers
– FFEL Loans – $342.6 billion; 16.8 million borrowers.
– Perkins Loans – $8.0 billion; 2.7 million borrowers.

And by loan type:

– Stafford Subsidized – $266.7 billion; 28.9 million borrowers
– Stafford Unsubsidized – $423.5 billion; 27.1 million borrowers
– Stafford combined – $690.3 billion; 31.9 million unique recipients
– Grad PLUS – $50.2 billion; 1.0 million borrowers
– Parent PLUS – $74.5 billion; 3.3 million borrowers
– Perkins – $8.0 billion; 2.7 million borrowers
– Consolidation – $439.2 billion; 12.0 million borrowers

Here’s a look at average debt by program:

– MBA = $42,000 (11% of graduate degrees)
– Master of Education = $50,879 (16%)
– Master of Science = $50,400 (18%)
– Master of Arts = $58,539 (8%)
– Law = $140,616 (4%)
– Medicine and health sciences = $161,772 (5%)

The math shows that this program might do well to reduce student loan debt by a third.

If Gov. Cuomo envisions truly changing the landscape – then an overhaul of the system may be necessary.

Also on FingerLakes1.com