Conservadem Policies in a Nutshell

Andrew Cuomo unveiled a “free” tuition program recently, and rather unsurprisingly, on closer examination, it turns out to be mindlessly punitive and difficult to use:


The Fine Print
Interestingly, coverage of Cuomo’s plan was by no means uncritical, suggesting that he may not get the tailwind for 2020 that he expects. (For early negative reactions, see here and here.) From my perspective, Cuomo’s plan has one critical flaw:

Cuomo’s “Tuition-Free College” Plan is not a universal benefit

That is, Excelsior is not a left program providing universal concrete material benefits to everyone, especially the working class. So it’s not a program from the left. Rather, it’s a typical liberal program, directed only at the “deserving,” hedged about with complexity, and targeting the (so-called) middle class, and not the working class. More specifically, Cuomo’s plan:

  1. Is means-tested
  2. Does not cover fees
  3. Covers full-time students only
  4. Has a residency requirement
  5. Has clawbacks
  6. Has a “crapshoot” clause

Let’s consider each of these points in turn.

Let’s go through these one at a time:

  1. Means testing creates a situation where popular support is limited, and allows for a the program to be killed by gradually tightening the clause.   Additionally, as Lamberth Strether notes, “Third, means-testing and gatekeeping generally are in essence a jobs guarantee for the professional class, and one can’t help but think that’s a key consideration for the Democrat establishment, since that’s their base.”
  2. Fees, not just room and board, and constitute as much as ⅔ of the cost of school, and as shown by a number of state schools, most notably my alma mater UMass, it drives schools to move costs from tuition and fees.  Additionally, this program applies to the last dollar, so a dollar in something like Pell grants must be applied to tuition, and not to fees or living expenses, or text books. (If you get a $1000 grant or scholarship, the amount that you get under the New York program is cut by $1000).
  3. The full time requirement means that it’s impossible for poor students to take advantage of the the program, since they need to pay something north of 20 grand in fees.
  4. While handling tens of thousands of dollars in fees, you have to earn 15 credits a semester or pay the grant back, which makes it impossible to work your way through school.
  5. The residency requirement is not one that people normally think of, which requires that you be a state resident to benefit (thought it does that too), but rather that if you live or work outside of the state for Five Years After Graduation you have to pay back the grant.
  6. The crapshoot function says that the program shall be terminated if  the lotto under performs in any given year year, and schools are allowed to arbitrarily redefine the conditions to qualify.

This is a classic Blue Dog/DLC/New Dem program:  It adds complexity, it does not provide the benefits promised, it contains an unneeded bureaucracy, adds a dose of humiliation, and sets up conditions that convince people who want the benefit that government does not work.

If it were any more half assed, you would think that it came from Bill Clinton’s White House.

The primary purpose of this grant is to boost Andrew Cuomo’s prospects for a 2020 Presidential run.

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