Free College Tuition is Key Out of Poverty For Bronx Residents

One of the most aggressive platform policies from Senator Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign for the Democratic ticket in the 2016 presidential election cycle was free college tuition. 

Yesterday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, alongside Senator Sanders, announced the nation’s most ambitious free college tuition plan

Under his plan, which would begin this coming Fall if approved by state legislature, students from households making under $100,000 a year would qualify for free tuition at SUNY or CUNY colleges. 

Within three years, households under $125,000 yearly income would qualify. 

It isn’t even a question if we should do this, it’s morally imperative that we do this. 

Now before you go on a rant that why should we pay for others to get free things, let’s remember one thing in case we have forgotten: Once upon a time, CUNY schools were free and it was how many of our parents and older generations made the American dream possible without being saddled by crippling debt. 

Education isn’t a privilege or a luxury, it is a human right. 

The Bronx is a borough of colleges and universities yet most of our residents won’t see the inside of these institutions not necessarily because they may not be prepared (that’s an entirely different conversation) but because they simply cannot afford the tuition or to take out loans to do so. 

The disparity between students from higher income families and low income families is startling. 

In 2015, The Wall Street Journal wrote:

“College completion rates for wealthy students have soared in 40 years but barely budged for low-income students, leading to a yawning gap in educational attainment between rich and poor that could have long-lasting implications for the socioeconomic divide.

In 2013, 77% of adults from families in the top income quartile earned at least bachelor’s degrees by the time they turned 24, up from 40% in 1970, according to a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. But 9% of people from the lowest income bracket did the same in 2013, up from 6% in 1970.”

As the poorest borough in New York City, home to the poorest congressional district in the nation, providing free college tuition can be transformative for uplifting our residents from poverty, many of which have systemically had the cards stacked against their favor. 

We are at our best when we all succeed. 

It’s time we end the educational divide once and for all. 

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.