On the heels of recent reports that Governor Cuomo is in discussion with the Obama administration about a plan to provide two free years of community college in New York, a recent survey from the Community Service Society reveals broad public support for efforts to ensure college affordability and access.
Our latest Unheard Third survey confirms that New Yorkers recognize both the pivotal role college plays in their economic success, and the challenges associated with its high costs. In fact, New Yorkers named making college affordable as the policy—outside of increasing the minimum wage—most likely to improve their potential to get ahead. Low-, moderate-, and high-income New York City residents, in equal measure, cite the costs of tuition as by far the biggest barrier to entering and finishing a four-year college. And perhaps most strikingly, 70 percent of New Yorkers strongly believe that we should expand the 20th century commitment to a free public education that encompasses high school, to at 21st century model that includes free college.
In an op-ed today, we voice our support for the broad outlines of Governor Cuomo’s community college proposal, but argue that several key questions remain. Among them: What can be done to incentivize a four-year college degree for those who want to go beyond community college? How can we help ensure high completion and graduation rates so that New York can realize the benefits of its investment in college education? And how well are our public universities prepared to offer a high quality education to an influx of new students? With a thoughtful approach to these and other key questions, New York has an opportunity to lead a national conversation about affordable college education as a key driver of economic mobility in the 21st century—and the New Yorkers in our survey stand behind that effort.