NY Becomes 1st State to OK Tuition-Free College at Public Institutions

Courtesy of Ebony Magazine

Under proposed scholarship, students from households earning up to $100,000 can attend school tuition-free

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a tuition-free plan for the state in January. Lawmakers agreed to include it in the state’s budget, which was finally approved by the Assembly and Senate over the weekend, CNN Money reports.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, undergraduate students who attend a State University of New York or City University of New York school will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship. Their families must earn no more than $100,000 a year and the income cap will increase to $110,000 next year.

In 2019, the free tuition measure will extend to those earning $125,000.

Eligible students will not have to pay the $6,470 annual tuition cost at four-year institutions and about $4,350 a year at community colleges. They will still be responsible for other expenses related their education such as room and board if they live on campus. Other expenses can add up to $14,000 a year.

Students must take 30 credits a year to get the scholarship, a requirement that some lawmakers have outwardly opposed. They say it excludes students who enroll part time.

“Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo said the credit requirement was flexible to allow any student facing hardship the chance to pause and restart their program, or take fewer credits if needed. After they graduate, students must live and work in New York for the same amount of time they received the scholarship.

If students leave the state, the scholarship will be converted to a loan, a requirement that wasn’t initially included in the governor’s proposal.

The scholarship will cost an estimated $163 million in the first year, according to Cuomo’s office. But some lawmakers say that is a conservative estimate.

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