Political Arena

Klein seeks to make college more affordable


“I’m a senator on the united student government, and I can’t afford college.”

Such was a Fordham University student’s frank declaration at the podium during an event launching state Sen. Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein’s package of proposals aimed at making college more affordable.

If the student, John Leto, has any political aspirations beyond college, he should have taken notes during speeches by Mr. Klein and supporters from the state Assembly including Riverdale’s Jeffrey Dinowitz.

Speaking in a large, gothic-style room on Fordham University’s campus on March 7, Mr. Klein called for a plan to let parents lock in tuition rates via pre-paid accounts, among other measures. His office said the proposals would cost $12 million in outlays.

“No student should have to forgo a college education because of costly tuition or decades of debt incurred while in school,” Mr. Klein said. “That’s why I have made college affordability a major priority this year.”

The senator also called for more tax incentives for parents to use state 529 college savings accounts and a “study-and-stay” tax credit of $5,000 per year for up to 10 years for four-year college graduates who stay in the state.

While Mr. Dinowitz and his colleagues reminisced about free or cheap tuition when they were college students in New York, several Fordham undergraduates gave solemn personal accounts about the financial burden that expensive tuition costs have placed on their families.

But — Mr. Leto, take note — Mr. Klein managed to put a positive spin on the students’ at times teary-eyed testimonies, saying, “These guys are, I think, an inspiration for why we need to make college affordable.”

Mr. Klein’s renewed push for the college tuition proposals — initially unveiled at the start of the year as part of his Independent Democratic Conference’s broader “Affordable New York” legislative package — comes as the governor and mayor continue to fight over how to fund universal preschool.

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