Careers

Recent grads react to Gov. Cuomo's plan to address 'crushing' student debt

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a plan that would give free tuition to the state's two- and four-year public colleges to students whose parents earn less than $125,000 per year.

In a statement delivered alongside progressive Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Cuomo announced the so-called "Excelsior Scholarship" on Tuesday morning. It aims to alleviate the "crushing burden of student loans" and help put millions of young people on the "path to financial security."

Recent college graduates differ on whether Cuomo's plan is the best solution. But they agree that high student debt is harming young people's careers.

The average graduate leaves school with approximately $29,000 in debt. High monthly payments restrict job choices, graduates say.

"After college, students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, there is a ticking clock to start paying them off," says Eirik Amun, a 2011 graduate of the State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz.

"This forces graduates to just take what is available in their immediate job market," he says.

The student debt problem is exacerbated by the increasing cost of rent, which force many to move back in with their parents. The percent of young adults living with their parents is the highest in 130 years.

"Young people, those fresh out of graduation, should be the key drivers of innovation," says Jillian Berg, a 2012 graduate of SUNY Binghamton, who chose a New York state school because it was already cheaper than attending Rutgers University in her home state of New Jersey. "The less of a financial burden weighing them down, the better economic success we'll have as a country."

Others are more hesitant about Cuomo's plan.

"Tuition is already heavily subsidized by grants and aids for families making less than $125,000 a year, so I feel the efficacy of the program is overstated," says Jerry Zhao, a 2012 graduate of SUNY Binghamton.

He adds that, overall, the proposal is a good one.

"This is a step in the right direction, but far more needs to be done to make college affordable for all New Yorkers," Zhao says.

In the meantime, many are getting creative with how they pay off their debts. Check out how one teacher paid off $40,000 in student loans in 18 months.