New York Legislature approves free tuition at state colleges for middle class

Dubbed the Excelsior Scholarship, it will provide free tuition at schools in the State University of ny and City University of ny systems if an undergraduate student's family makes less than $100,000 annually.

NY has become the first state in the country to make tuition free at public four-year colleges and universities, but it has sparked objections by imposing a key restriction on students who receive the assistance.

"We applaud Governor Cuomo and the Legislature on a budget agreement that helps make college more affordable to a greater number of NY students and families", said SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley. Next year, more families will become eligible when the income cap increases to $110,000.

"College is today what high school was 50 years ago", Cuomo said on a radio interview Sunday on AM 970 in New York City. The scholarship does not remove tuition, but covers the difference between tuition and existing aid rather than allowing students to apply grants and scholarships other costs. To qualify the student would have to meet certain class load and grade point average restrictions, and room and board would not be covered.

Students must also remain in NY for as many years as they received the benefit. This scholarship could possibly help more than 940,000 families with college-age children across NY state.

Cuomo said Sunday that the tuition plan, which his office has estimated to cost $163 million, is a national first.

The proposal also includes a new $3,000-per-year state grant for students who choose to attend a private college or university, provided the school agrees to match that amount and freeze a student's tuition for the duration of the grant. In 2014, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and quickly implemented a plan to make community college free for recent high-school graduates throughout the state, though a later federal partnership proposed by former President Barack Obama failed. To do so, students must also have lived in NY for at least one year.

Sweden: The Nordic country offers tuition-free public education to citizens pursuing higher education, and the offer is also extended to students from the European Union. Students would be required to take 30 credits a year to maintain the scholarship, which would exclude part-time students.

The Excelsior Scholarship is not meant to replace other merit scholarships which can be used for expenses other than tuition. Those who do choose to leave the state will have the scholarship converted into a loan.

"That's a really, really good thing for the people of the state of NY and we got it done", said Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island. According to the Washington Post, almost 1 million families are projected to qualify for free tuition each year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement mentioning, "With this budget, NY has the nation's first accessible college program".

And the agreement seemingly has something for everyone in Albany: Assembly Democrats can claim a victory with juvenile justice reform and raising the age of criminal responsibility in NY.

The budget also includes maintenance costs to benefit CUNY and SUNY schools, and will also invest $8 million to provide "educational resources" such as textbooks and electronic-books to students at the schools.

  • Audrey Hill