New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rolled out a free college plan, for people who would stay in New York State and pay it back in taxes.  "Golden handcuffs," Reason's Ira Stoll scoffs.  "New Yorkers are fleeing in droves. I'm one of those who left, saying goodbye to New York and Gov. Cuomo in 2013 after 15 years in the state. I was able to escape the state without devastating personal financial consequences, which is more than can be said for the Excelsior Indentured Servants, er, 'scholarship recipients.'"  I mean, when you've lost Jacobin, a collective of people not necessarily troubled by guillotines and gulags:  "After graduation, recipients must live or work in New York for the same amount of time they attended school — if they don’t, the scholarship turns into debt."

Might even be unconstitutional, and apparently there aren't enough sharp creases in the governor's slacks for David Brooks.
Cuomo could have done many things to improve New York’s higher ed system. He could have poured all available money into the Tuition Assistance Program, which is directed at poorer students. He could have spent more to help students become academically ready for college, which is the biggest barrier to graduation. He could have done more to help students pay room and board expenses. He could have massively improved overstretched mental health services. He could have massively improved career counseling.

But in 2016 Bernie Sanders made a big splash on the campaign trail with a plan to make college “free.”
Yes, but the court intellectuals who advise the likes of Governor Cuomo would problematize that "become academically ready" as victim-blaming, or using a deficiency model to design public policy.  And if you think college is expensive now, wait until you see how much it costs when it's free, as Jacobin's M. C. Sekellick would have it.

Mr Brooks spells out a number of ways in which the policy might go wrong: by all means, read and understand.  Among the ways, there's this.
When state schools are “free,” more people will apply. As more apply, selectivity will increase, as administrators chase higher U.S. News & World Report rankings. That will exclude students with lower credentials, who tend to be from more disadvantaged homes. Even Georgia’s successful Hope Scholarship program had this unintended consequence, widening the college attendance gap between white and black and rich and poor.
Yes, and what would the deanlets and deanlings in remediation and retention do all day?

And New York State is the Rust Belt in microcosm.
Students who receive free tuition for four years have to remain in New York State for four years after graduating, or pay the money back. This means they won’t be able to seize out-of-state opportunities during the crucial years when their career track is being formed. They’ll be trapped in a state with one really expensive city, and other regions where good jobs are scarce.
Think about Chicago as the really expensive city, and the surrounding states as being hammered by globalization, and we're having a conversation from ten years ago.  "We may be grateful that there are no proposals to fence the northern border with an Anti-Gopher Protective Wall to keep Iowa students from succumbing to filthy lures from the North."  It wasn't just Iowa: Wisconsin's legislators were dismayed about graduates decamping to Chicago for work.  (Illinois's failures have induced some of those graduates to relocate to Wisconsin, although many still work in Greater Chicago.  Better to have a free-trade zone, no?)  New Yorkers: don't say I didn't warn you.

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