New York’s March Toward Free College: The Effects of Financial Aid on Enrollment and Student Loan Debt in Public Higher Education
Ramy Abbady

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



New York University

Primary Discipline

Higher Education
In this dissertation, I quantitatively examine the racialized impacts of New York’s financial aid programs on public postsecondary enrollment and student loan debt. New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) has, since the 1970s, provided low-income students with grants covering tuition costs in the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems. Since 2017, the Excelsior Scholarship has provided free tuition at SUNY and CUNY for students with family incomes up to $125,000. In the first paper, I use data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study to estimate the impacts of TAP on student loan debt through propensity-score matching. In the second paper, I use data from New York City Public Schools to analyze the impacts of the Excelsior Scholarship on CUNY and SUNY enrollment through interrupted time series analysis. In the third paper, I compare New York’s decline in community college attendance following the implementation of the Excelsior Scholarship to national trends using synthetic controls. Together, these studies enable the analysis of how financial aid programs can contribute to the closure of racial enrollment and student loan debt gaps through the study of New York, a state with significant racial and socioeconomic diversity. In doing so, I employ critical quantitative approaches through disaggregation beyond traditional racial categories and a focus on equity. These studies provide insights from a large, racially diverse state, in order to inform public policy across the country as various iterations of “free college” programs are proposed and implemented.
About Ramy Abbady
Ramy Cappellino Abbady is a doctoral candidate in Sociology of Education at New York University. Originally from Long Island, New York, Ramy attended Vassar College where he majored in educational studies with a minor in physics. During his time at Vassar, he was involved in student government and multicultural and LGBTQ student organizations. His involvement on campus inspired him to pursue a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs, which he began at the University of San Francisco shortly after receiving his bachelors degree. During his time as a masters student, Ramy worked in residential life in the California State University system, before transitioning to an academic advising role after graduation. As a CSU academic advisor, Ramy worked to improve STEM students’ retention and graduation, in addition to targeted advising for transfer students from the California Community College system. Ramy later worked in graduate program administration at a large private university in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this role, he served as a coordinator for two federally-funded doctoral training grants, including leading diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in these programs. Through this shift from a public university system where students often worked multiple jobs and/or commuted long distances to afford their education to a private university with massive resources available for students, Ramy became interested in financial aid’s impacts on students and how inequality is reduced and/or reproduced in higher education. This inspired him to pursue his doctoral work, which he began in fall of 2020.

Pin It on Pinterest