East Fishkill, NY - Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) has written to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) to get answers about the advertising campaign for the Excelsior Scholarship SUNY "free" tuition program. Lalor's letter to ESD President Howard Zemsky can be found here.
"Empire State Development needs to answer several questions about this advertising spending," said Lalor. "How much do the ads cost? Is it accurate to say, as the ads do, that the tuition 'free' program is for the middle class when many middle class New Yorkers are excluded from the program? Why is the advertising campaign being run by ESD when ESD doesn't even oversee higher education or administer the 'free' tuition program? I originally contacted the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) with these questions. I assumed HESC was running the advertising campaign because it is administering the 'free' tuition program. I was surprised to learn that the ad campaign is going through ESD."
Lalor's questions for Empire State Development:
- On what stations are the ads running?
- In what markets are the ads running?
- Are the ads only running in New York State markets?
- How much do the ads cost?
- Is it accurate to say, as the "free" college ad does, that the program is for the middle class when, according to Pew Research many New Yorkers who are middle class are excluded from the program?
- Why is Empire State Development running the advertising campaign when it doesnt oversee higher education?
- Can you explain why Empire State Development chose expensive mass market television advertising to promote this program rather than less expensive more targeted advertising that would be focused on potential college students rather than everyone watching, for example, the Yankee game on the YES Network?
- If someone who could benefit from a free SUNY education lacks the initiative or ability to seek information about a free education program available to them and requires a television ad to learn about the opportunity, are these the types of people who should have their entire tuition paid for by New York taxpayers?
- ESD clearly paid tax dollars to air the "free" college commercial on television. However, the ad doesn't even seem to be readily available for free on Youtube or even on the HESC or ESD website where potential students doing their due diligence to find ways to fund their education could find it. Why is that?
- Lalor voted against the budget which included the "free" college provision because in Lalor's words, "The program doesn't make college free it just sends the tuition bill for some students to the already overburdened New York taxpayer."
Lalor added that he is asking these questions because he has concerns that, "The unnecessary 'free" college TV ads may be more about the governor's political ambitions than informing students the way the ubiquitous Start-Up New York ads were about politics and perception not about attracting businesses."