Beware: The NYS Excelsior Scholarship is Paving the Way for High School 2.0

by S.A. Prince

Syracuse, New York’s CNY Central reports:

“Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday night that a $153 billion deal has been reached on the New York State budget.

Included in the budget is the The Excelsior Scholarship program, which will provide tuition-free college to middle class families.

The program will make state colleges free for families making up to $125,000 a year.

According to the governor’s office, Under the Excelsior Scholarship, nearly 80 percent, or 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year, would qualify to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in New York State.

The new program will be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019. Scholars must be enrolled in college full-time and average 30 credits per year in order to receive the funding.”

Now, nobody needs this Excelsior Scholarship more than me. Trying to pay for my schooling while working full time, all so I can continue to attend school, is as painful as hearing nails scratch against a chalkboard. Still, in order to understand why the Excelsior Scholarship is going to hurt us more than it will help us, one must understand scarcity, supply, and demand.

We have more students going to college now than ever before. This is due to the emergence of financial aid, and a few other factors like the deterioration of our blue-collar industries, and the emergence of the service industry. Because jobs have been sent overseas in favor of cheap labor, there are less blue-collar and trade jobs available for students graduating high school. The supply of available jobs has therefore decreased.

Blue-collar and trade jobs are what built up the American middle class. Since their abrupt exodus, the middle class income has trended closer to lower class and poverty levels. The quality of life in America has diminished significantly, even though we prop up the façade of the American Dream Lifestyle with credit. Even though the supply of blue-collar jobs has decreased, the number of people who need viable jobs that offer a “living wage” has not decreased, therefore the demand for the remaining jobs (which are mostly service a.k.a. pink-collar) has increased significantly.

That the supply of jobs has not been able to meet the demand for jobs, a natural scarcity has been created. We had many college graduates vying for limited jobs before the passing of the Excelsior Scholarship. Imagine how many more students with the same homogeneous college education will flood the market now that the Excelsior Scholarship has been approved? As of Friday, all of our degrees have diminished in value. By leveling the playing field, the Excelsior Scholarship has turned college into High School 2.0.

The college degree has become the minimum wage of life, a height that all are allowed to reach, instead of a separator between amateurism and professionalism, enlistee and officer, apprentice and journeyman. If there is nothing you remember, remember this: There is no progress in equality, because there is no such thing as equality. It is an ideal, not a reality. Anybody who is offering equality has something to benefit from it. So, you must ask yourself, who is going to benefit from the Excelsior Scholarship. The lower class? The middle class? No, that’s the affront. The beneficiary is the upper class members of society, the business owners and the government.

The Excelsior Scholarship isn’t bringing the lower class up, instead it is pushing the middle class down while making the gap between us the upper class larger. With more people flooding the market with homogeneous skills and education, jobs can offer lower wages. Your specialization has just gotten a little less special. The taxpayers have to cover the cost of the scholarship, so it is more pressure on every member of society, even those who decide not to attend college. Education has become completely subsidized, and one needs to look no further than the farming industry to see overall effect of subsidies.

According to the NCPA:

“Agricultural subsidies distort market prices and interfere with trade, causing deleterious distortions that adversely affect poor famers in developing countries and burden U.S. taxpayers. Moreover, in some cases agricultural subsidies can lead to environmental degradation. Reducing agricultural subsidies has the potential to help developing countries, the environment and taxpayers.”

The Effect of Demand Subsidies as defined by the Houston Chronicle:

“When the government provides a demand-side subsidy to consumers, it encourages them to purchase a given product. For example, a tax rebate to consumers who purchase a green car will in theory cause the demand curve for environmentally conscious vehicles to shift up and to the right, while the supply curve stays the same. Because consumers will be paying less, producers can actually increase the price because producers can charge more and consumers are being artificially encouraged to purchase green cars, producers are encouraged to produce more. The price and the quantity produced both increase.”

Now that all of this is happening, how do you respond? There is no perfect answer, but I think Marketing Guru Seth Godin has a good idea. In his book Linchpin, which I think is more valuable now than ever before, Godin says:

“…treasure what it means to do a day’s work. It’s our one and only chance to do something productive today, and it’s certainly not available to someone merely because he is the high bidder. A day’s work is your chance to do art, to create a gift, to do something that matters. As your work gets better and your art becomes more important, competition for your gifts will increase and you’ll discover that you can be choosier about whom you give them to.”

Paraphrasing Godin, there are no more good jobs available for people who want to be told to do. More important than a college degree is having the ability to separate yourself by bringing something different to the table. With the Excelsior Scholarship you’ll be competing with even more people who are bringing a college degree to the table. How will you stand apart? If you haven’t searched your soul for the answer to that question, now is the time to begin.

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