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Dem wants repeal of in-state work mandate for ‘free tuition’

Assemb. James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) on Jan. 25,

Assemb. James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) on Jan. 25, 2013. Photo Credit: Lili Holzer-Glier

ALBANY

One Democrat already is pushing to repeal part of New York’s just-approve program to provide a free college education for some.

Assemb. James Skoufis (D-Orange County) wants to undo a requirement that free tuition recipients work in New York State for four years after earning a degree.

The Democrat – who has criticized the “Excelsior Scholarship initiative for being too limited to help enough students” – said Wednesday the in-state work mandate will tamp down participation.

“Let’s face it: there are many shortcomings and missed opportunities with the Excelsior Scholarship,” Skoufis said in a news release. “The in-state work requirement, however, is among the most egregious and punitive. We border five other states, for crying out loud, with countless taxpaying New Yorkers working in places like Northern New Jersey and Connecticut. This destructive provision needs to be quickly repealed.”

The initiative expands financial aid primarily for students from families who earn between $50,000 and $125,000 annually (families below that level already were eligible for enough aid to offset tuition) and give them a path to a tuition-free education at City of New York University and State University of New York campuses.

But the program comes with some stringent conditions. Students must garner 30 credits per year and graduate in four years. Further, recipients must agree to live and work in New York for four years after graduating.

Skoufis said the residency requirement is fair but the work mandate would limit students who live along the state’s borders and might find a job in, say, New Jersey.

Senate Republicans, who had pushed for the work and residency requirements, defended the program’s conditions.

Skoufis is “so out of touch that he thinks hardworking taxpayers should just provide free stuff to anyone who wants it,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “Our changes make the governor’s original ‘free college tuition” proposal better and more merit based, requiring students to maintain a certain GPA and live and work in New York after they graduate.”

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