BUFFALO, NY - The leader of one of Western New York’s many private colleges says he has real concerns about Governor Cuomo’s call for "free" SUNY tuition for students who come from middle, to lower middle class households.

“I think there are real problems with what is being proposed right now, at least in its initial form,” said
Daemen College President Gary A. Olson.

“Let’s say for example the state were to put all the money that it’s putting into the system into the public schools. You might have a huge influx of people from the private colleges heading to the public ones,” Olson told WGRZ-TV.

“The public universities cannot handle that kind of capacity all the sudden,” said Olson. “They would be overwhelmed and they would just come back to the taxpayer to say we need more money to handle this increased capacity. On the other side of that coin, some of the private colleges that are having enrollment problems might just go under, and that would have an adverse effect on economic development in the entire state."

Olson, who serves on the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) Board of Trustees, told Channel 2 News his concerns don’t stop there.

“I’m thinking a lot of this hasn’t been thought out," he said.

“The very poor families are already being taken care of through federal and state aid. They’re already going to college if they have the aptitude. The very rich people don’t have to worry about it because they have the money. The middle class is where this hits the most, and I think a wiser way to use to use state money is to put it into financial aid, and not attach it to a particular type of college—a public one--, but attach it to a student instead.”

Further, Olsen believes that if public money, intended to make college more affordable for a greater number of students, is used to boost existing financial aid programs, students would have more choices of where they want to be schooled.

“So, for example, if the governor were willing to put the money into the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and increase that, you could let the student and their family choose where they want to go to college,” he said.