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Mount President Criticizes New York State’s Free Tuition Plan for Public Colleges

4/21/2017

Riverdale, N.Y. – Mount Saint Vincent President Charles L. Flynn, Jr. discussed his concerns about New York’s free public tuition program with Inside Higher Ed last week, noting that the new initiative “has thrown the marketplace into confusion.” The piece, titled “New York’s Free-Tuition Plan Leaves Private Colleges Uncertain About the Future,” explores the negative impact the program could have on New York’s private colleges and universities.

President Flynn has been a vocal opponent of the program—dubbed the Excelsior Scholarship— since its introduction as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $153.1 billion then-proposed budget in January. In its first year, the program will be available to students from families with annual incomes of up to $100,000, with a $125,000 cap in 2019. Now that it has passed, its provisions require—perhaps most controversially—that recipients live and work in New York State after graduation for the same number of years they received Excelsior Scholarships, or their grants will become loans.

Contrary to public image, President Flynn has argued, many of New York’s independent schools serve a larger percentage of students from working backgrounds than its state institutions. He believes that more support should have gone to the state’s existing aid programs, including the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). He also cited independent schools’ considerable economic contributions and the remarkable achievements of its students, particularly with consideration to upward mobility. The Mount recently ranked third in economic mobility among 578 selective independent colleges and universities nationwide. Mount students experience greater upward mobility than all but two colleges and universities across the country.

If enrollment rises at state schools, the Inside Higher Ed article asserts, private schools may have to offer more incentives, like financial aid, to draw students. But Mount Saint Vincent already has a freshman tuition discount rate in the high 50 percent range, according to Inside Higher Ed. “How can I go above that?” President Flynn told the outlet. “We don’t have a lot more aid to throw.”

With the marketplace in a tailspin, President Flynn questions how Excelsior Scholarships will ultimately work. “We certainly don’t know how it will affect individual families,” he told Inside Higher Ed.

Inside Higher Ed is a leading digital media outlet centering on the higher education ecosystem, with 1.8 million monthly subscribers.

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.