Free-tuition idea front and center at SUNY Orange forum – News – recordonline.com

MIDDLETOWN — Calling Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship plan a “bold step,” SUNY Orange President Kristine Young on Tuesday said she would expect it to draw about 200 more students to the college if it gets approved.

“Students are already excited about it,” said Young. “Community colleges were founded on access, access, access. This (the proposed Excelsior Scholarship program) helps with that.”

But James Raimo, a Mount Saint Mary College vice president, questioned why the plan would be limited to public schools. Raimo said the money should be used for grants that would give families choices. “The mix of private and public has given New York the best higher education system in the country,” Raimo said. “I don’t know why the governor would want to mess with that.”

Young and Raimo were two of four panelists in a 90-minute forum about the governor’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship program. It was sponsored by the Times Herald-Record and the moderator was the Record’s executive editor, Barry Lewis. The other two panelists were Angela Wise, financial and career services counselor at Middletown High School, and Nathanael Linton, a sophomore at SUNY Orange. He is the student member of the SUNY Orange Foundation, which is dedicated to raising scholarship money.

Pointing out that 80 percent of the students in the Middletown district get free-or-reduced-price lunch, Wise said the Excelsior program could clear the way for many students to seek higher education, particularly those from families where they would be the first to attend college.

Linton, of the Town of Wallkill, who is the first in his family to attend college, said the program could make a crucial financial difference for students like him. “We have to help students succeed,” said Linton, a political science major. “They’ll do great things.”

The forum, which was held at SUNY Orange, drew…

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