Dear Jimmy: Making “Free College” Pay in New York

  1. It will incentivize unemployment. Unemployed college graduates will face a strong incentive to remain in New York, not paying taxes and leaning on the state’s social services, rather than accepting a low-paying job in New Jersey — and repaying debt.
  2. It will reduce income that could be spent in New York. People offered a low-paying job in New York and a higher-paid job in Connecticut — and could live in New York either way — will choose the lower-paying job in New York. This harms their overall earnings trajectories and reduces the amount of money they will invest in New York’s economy.
  3. It will discourage service. College graduates who see a future in the military will face a strong incentive to avoid serving their country — if they go off and serve, they must repay debt.
  4. It will discourage talent development. Sometimes getting the best possible education requires leaving New York for training or graduate school. This requirement means that those folks will be slapped with debt — which will no doubt reduce their desire to ever return to New York to start a family.
  5. It will cut against family ties. People who need to leave New York to care for a family member will also be smacked with debt. When they are done with that important work, do you really think they’ll want to return to New York?



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Sara Goldrick-Rab

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Author of Paying the Price, founder of the #RealCollege movement, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, and Believe in Students