Castorina Opposes College-in-Prison Program

August 16, 2017

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a program aimed at expanding college education in prisons throughout New York. The program will utilize $7 million, paid to the state in bank settlements, in order to pay for convicts to enroll in college classes at 7 different prisons. The program is expected to triple the number of inmates currently enrolled in college. As a result more than 3,000 prisoners, with 5 years or less remaining on their sentence, will receive free college education. While college graduates struggle to make payments on their loan debt, Governor Cuomo has prioritized policies that favor prisoners over law-abiding college students.

Loan debt for college students has swelled to insurmountable figures in recent years. In New York State student loan debt has more than doubled in the last decade, reaching $82 billion in total. The debt that individual students own is, on average, more than $30,000. New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship currently offers free college tuition to any student whose family earns a combined household income of less than $100,000 annually. Of the nearly 1.3 million in-state students enrolled in the SUNY system, less than 75,000 applied for the free tuition program this Fall. Despite Governor Cuomo’s claims that the program will provide free tuition to low-income and middle-class college students, the numbers are showing that only a small fraction of the population is benefiting from the program.

Policies such as the college-in-prison program make matters worse for students by allocating funds to prisoners rather than to law-abiding college students, thus rewarding bad behavior. With student loan debt continuously increasing, it is crucial that government enacts measures to reduce the cost of college for ALL students.

On the matter, Assemblyman Ron Castorina said, “These young men and women are our future. In a time where debt plagues the young members of our workforce, by allocating $7 million to nonsensical programs — college-in-prison sends our hard-working and law-abiding college students the message that we do not care about them. The decision to use this money for convicts instead of students is insulting.”