- Last week, New York became the first state to offer tuition-free enrollment at its public universities and colleges for students under a certain income, but despite the assistance, aid is still needed for non-tuition expenses like textbooks, according to Inside Higher Ed.
- Part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship plan includes $8 million which will be split evenly between CUNY and SUNY schools to help provide students with better open education resources, including ebooks, potentially defraying the cost of textbooks.
- Potential beneficiaries of the funding include SUNY OER Services, which tries to assist state colleges as they begin to depend more steadily on OER, while CUNY may expand a grant program that is funding the creation of as many as 300 zero-textbook-cost courses and change courses that currently use commercial textbooks.
The costs of non-tuition expenses continue to be a barrier for low-income students, and textbooks are a particular hindrance for students; a 2016 report found that the average cost of a college textbook had increased by 73% since ten years before.
One noted drawback of the New York plan is that if a student qualifies for and receives Pell grant assistance, according to the proposal they will receive less tuition assistance from the state, which means the Pell grant is still paying for the tuition gap as opposed to alleviating the burden of other non-tuition college costs.
An analysis by the public policy organization Demos found that few students receiving federal student aid graduate from college debt-free, despite monetary assistance. If the tuition aid is meant to help these students, it may need to be considered as a supplement to the student’s federal aid. Demos suggests making tuition-free program a “first dollar” program to ensure tuition will be paid regardless of federal aid status, which would enable students to use Pell grants and other aid for living and other expenses.