Business Review Board / April 12, 2017

New York’s ‘Free’ College Ensures Failure

Student snowflakes will be further inoculated from reality, but there are a lot of strings attached to this “freebie.”

Student snowflakes in New York will be further inoculated from reality thanks to a rash decision by the state legislature and aspiring president Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Nobody needs to be told about the explosive nature of college tuition. But robbing Peter to pay Paul is a naive and self-defeating method of dealing with it. Yet that’s exactly what New York just did by approving a budget proposal which mandates that taxpayers cover the cost of associate and even bachelor degrees. As NBC explains, “While states like California and Georgia have comprehensive grant and scholarship programs for four-year college as well, New York’s is the nation’s only truly universal program — with no requirements other than residency and income, and no caps on the amount of residents who can receive full tuition.”

This new entitlement will be incrementally implemented over the next three years. The $100,000-income eligibility threshold this coming fall will increase to $125,000 by 2019. New York evidently learned nothing from Louisiana — a case study in why “free” college education doesn’t work. And New York is destined to become another prime example. As Mary Clare Reim writes in The Daily Signal, “Indeed, offering free college to students means that someone else is now paying for it: New York taxpayers, many of whom do not hold bachelor’s degrees themselves and will likely earn less in the future than their college-going counterparts for whom they are now footing the bill.”

The result, Reim goes on to explain, is a situation with compound effects: “Economists have found that virtually unrestricted access to federal student aid encourages colleges and universities to raise their tuition prices. When universities are not directly accountable for their prices to consumers, tuition can gradually increase without jeopardizing the loss of significant numbers of students. However, American taxpayers feel this tuition increase quite a bit when students default on their loans.” Student aid works in much the same way. It might help students in the short term, but it doesn’t address the overarching problem: the fact that tuition is rising unabated. Taxpayer-provided relief merely diminishes competition. Besides, though higher education is often good, it is not a magic formula for career success.

Perhaps that’s the message tens of thousands of ex-New Yorkers are taking to heart. As David Freddoso in the Washington Examiner points out, “New York State lost a net 72,889 residents in the last full year for which data are available — nearly the equivalent of the population of New Rochelle. That’s an amazing dubious accomplishment, considering that it includes all international immigration. (Only Illinois did worse.)” Moreover, New York’s new college entitlement program contains a big disincentive. The governor’s office stipulates that “scholars will be required to live and work in-state for the same number of years after graduation as they received the scholarship while in school.” It’s rather ironic that New York’s idea for addressing the great blue state exodus is to recruit students only to then try coercing them into rejecting federalism. Some people are simply incapable of understanding Economics 101.

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