Cuomo’s budget could cost private institutions


James McClendon, Editor-in-Chief

New York State will be the first to provide low to middle income families with free tuition to state schools, thanks to legislation orchestrated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

This action is likely to hurt the bottom line for many private institutions like Utica College, which rely heavily on income from student tuition. Utica College President Laura Casamento sent out a memo addressing growing concerns about how Utica College will be affected.

In the memo, Casamento referenced  a Georgetown University study, which predicted that a free public tuition plan would drop private school attendance by 7 to 15 percent.

“A 10 percent decrease in our undergraduate, main campus enrollment equates to approximately $3.3 million annually in net tuition revenue,” Casamento said in the memo.

Potential students with families that have annual income of $125,000 or less will qualify for this new Excelsior Scholarship. It will provide $87 million in funding, however, students are cautioned to read the fine print.

The budget will not cover room and board and it will require recipients to remain and work in New York State for as long as they received the aid. If they do not uphold their commitments, then the aid would convert to loans.

There is some positive news for private institutions. The plan also provides $19 million in Enhanced Tuition Awards for students who want to attend private schools like Utica College.

Like the Excelsior Scholarship, this plan comes with some strings attached. This aid is only for students with a family income less than $100,000. The plan will require institutions to match the aid, dollar for dollar, up to $3,000.

In the memo, Casamento said that she has spoken with the Board of Trustees, the President’s Cabinet and Provost’s Cabinet about these issues. Casamento has also scheduled a town hall meeting for Tuesday, May 9 at 2 p.m. in the Strebel Auditorium, to explain to the Utica College community how it will be affected and what actions will need to be made.

These new developments will test the fortitude and will of many private institutions in the coming years.

“Fortunately, innovation and resiliency are embedded in our DNA as an institution,” Casamento said in the memo. “These factors are in our favor, and they will help us ensure the College’s future.”