Volume 25

The “Free College” Illusion: How State Tuition Support Programs Are Widening the Opportunity Gap

by Lauren A. DiMartino

“Historically, state need-based aid has been the largest area of state investment in student financial aid.” Such a large investment by the State deserves to be looked at through a critical lens to consider how their programs affect their most vulnerable populations. Informed by legal, economic, and student engagement experience, Part II of this Note explores the statutory and regulatory framework for the current educational and financial aid system in New York State. This Part analyzes the current structure of the laws providing financial aid in New York State, their most prominent regulations, and their intent and history. Part III, using the City University of New York (CUNY) as a microcosm of the types of state policies and challenges faced nationwide, critiques how the laws as a whole are not serving the goals they originally sought to accomplish. Part IV, on the other hand, acknowledges what the laws have done right. The Note then outlines several recommendations for consideration in Part V, most applicable for New York State, but also relevant to other jurisdictions as they consider new laws to finance higher education.

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