Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about New York introducing legislation to offer free tuition for certain residents. Did lawmakers pass or block the legislation? What exactly was proposed?
I did a little bit of research to find out what was proposed, what passed, and what impact it will have on Gold Star families.
- The bill, number A2991, is officially titled “An act to amend the education law, in relation to providing scholarships for surviving dependent family members of New York state military personnel who have died while performing official military duties.” It would be a change to the existing MERIT scholarship.
- If made a law, surviving dependents of military members killed, known as Gold Star family members, would receive “free tuition, room and board at SUNY or CUNY institution of higher learning.”
- The bill was voted on in early April by the state Assembly and passed 15 to 11, which means it will be held in committee
- The state Senate introduced a similar bill, with the notable addition of a 2020 start date. State senator and sponsor John Brooks believed that this change would make it fiscally possible to support the bill.
- Later in April, New York Governor Cuomo broadened the application of the existing scholarship. “Under the new interpretation, college tuition and related costs will be covered for all children, spouses, and financial dependents of members of the United States Armed Forces who die or become severely and permanently disabled, or missing in action while performing their military duties,” his office said in an April 17 press release. This expands the current scholarship, which only applied to the dependents of those killed in a combat zone.
Ultimately, Governor Cuomo made the needed changes using his executive authority. Prior, the legislature remained without a passed bill, receiving criticism from New York residents, veterans’ organizations, and even President Donald Trump.
Why has this legislation received so much attention? The state legislature recently passed a budget that included increased financial aid to fund the education of Dreamers, those brought to the United States as children of undocumented immigrants. This change was part of the larger state budget, while the proposed change to the MERIT scholarship required separate approval and funding.
Some believed that the hold up was political, while others argued that it was due to the inability to fund the change with an already-approved budget.