Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks about free college tuition
New York is picking up where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders left off on the free college tuition issue. Photo: Getty Images

People get all lathered up over things the federal government does, even when those things don't actually have a lot to do with our lives. But big states can also take actions which affect the whole county. That's why educators are on red alert over pending legislation in New York.

 

The Empire State appears poised to approve free college for — well, if not everyone — at least an awful lot of folks who might otherwise struggle mightily to pay the bills.

 

This has been a Democratic dream for years, and Bernie Sanders (and to a lesser degree, Hillary Clinton) raised it to grail status during the last election. And why not? College costs have exploded like vig payments to the mob, far outpacing inflation. Many families have no prayer of saving enough, and when their kids head off to school they know they are diving into an ocean of debt.

 

The Excelsior Scholarship will be aimed at New York kids going to their own state's colleges, as long as their families make less than $100,000 a year. The promise: free tuition for four years of college or two years of community college for a significant portion of the middle class.

 

Room, board, and books are not included and that still involves a lot of cash, but the plan is nonetheless worth thousands to any qualifying family.

There are plenty of details to consider. For example, students who go for this will have to remain and work in the state for several years after graduating or the cost of their education becomes a loan they must repay. And private schools, which have griped this could cut into their client base, will get a little funding assistance too.

Lawmakers will certainly have to tweak it along the way. This is, after all, a big program which will cost a bundle.

Still, while some less populous states have been fiddling with some aspects of free college, if all goes as expected, New York will become the biggest player to join in this grand experiment. And that has the real possibility of tipping some others over the edge...bringing one of Bernie Sanders' most ardent ideas to life, long after his campaign died.