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Politics and Government

Finch says Cuomo's free college proposal is irresponsible entitlement

Finch.jpg
Office of Assemblyman Gary Finch
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Central New York Assemblyman Gary Finch calls Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to offer free college tuition at New York's SUNY and CUNY schools for families that make less than $125,000 unsustainable and an attack on private colleges.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to offer free college tuition at New York's SUNY and CUNY schools for families that make less than $125,000 has garnered a lot of attention, but not everyone is receptive to the idea.

Central New York Assemblyman Gary Finch calls it expensive, irresponsible and unsustainable. Finch is a Republican who represents the 126th Assembly District that covers parts of Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga and Chenango counties. He says the program, which the governor estimates will cost $163 million annually, is unfair to taxpayers who are already swimming in student debt and to private colleges that could see a dip in enrollment as a result of this policy.

"They can barely get through now," Finch said. "You give them a 15-20 percent reduction in enrollment and those schools are going to be in very serious trouble. Some of them may even have to close down. There's about $90 billion of revenue that's associated with these private colleges that contribute to their communities. Many of them are the sole economic engine where they reside."

As an alternative approach, Republicans like Finch want to expand the state's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which awards about $1 billion annually in scholarships. Finch advocates bumping the income limit under the program from $80-100,000 or more. He says that approach will be less costly and allow the private and technical schools to share in the growth. Students can use TAP at private or public institutions.

"We don't have qualified well-trained workers -- the backbone of this country," Finch said. "They don't have to be college educated with a degree in a particular field. What we need to do is train our workforce so they can function in today's technical society."

But with Democrats in control of the Assembly and a positive reaction to the plan from Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan, Finch believes the governor's free college proposal is likely to pass as is.