College for New York residents is now being made tuition free for middle and low-income students. State senators approved the budget, Sunday, April 9, 2017, paving the way for students from households making an income of $100,000, or less, to attend state colleges and universities for free.
New York is the First State to Have Tuition Free College
New York is the first state in the U.S. to give the opportunity for middle class and lower-income families to achieve a college degree at no cost for tuition. The final approval of the $153 billion budget by the state Senate, came a day after Assembly approval on Saturday, April 8. The free tuition plan was first introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in January 2017.
Cuomo proposed a plan allowing students accepted at any New York, two or four year tertiary institution, to attend tuition free if their household earns $125,000, or less, per year. Lawmakers agreed to include the proposal when considering the state budget. Cuomo will now officially sign off, making free tuition for the state of New York a reality. With a 6.3 percent increase, since 2016, the budget for higher education aid just approved is $7.5 billion.
Included in the program are a total of 64 statewide college campuses. It has been estimated that the Excelsior Scholarship Program will cost $163 million. With state college and university tuition at $6470, the New York governor feels that the government can make a difference giving residents the ability to fulfill dreams of attending college regardless of income.
Starting in the fall of 2017, the Excelsior Scholarship Program will be implemented. Over the next three years, the maximum income requirement will be phased-in, beginning with $100,000 annually in 2017. In 2018, the maximum will be raised to $110,000, and in 2019, $125,000. By 2019, Cuomo believes that 940,000 people will qualify for free tuition.
Stipulations for Free College Beyond Just Income Requirements
To offset the costs for free tuition, the budget approval also allows for the SUNY Board of Trustees to raise money for students who do not meet eligibility requirements. Tuition costs could rise $200 a year, over three years, for households above the maximum income threshold and students who do not fulfill the course and grade agreement.
Students participating in the free tuition program must be full time and average 30 credits per year. The full year course load could be spread over winter and summer breaks as well. Exceptions to the rule may be made for certain students who may have extenuating hardships. Although it is emphasized that students are expected to attain good grades, no specific grade point average is required at this time.
The Excelsior Scholarship will cover four years of college, five years of tuition for specialized five-year programs. A major stipulation is that they must remain living and working in the state of New York, for the same duration, after receiving a degree.
Although the tuition will be paid for, additional costs for books, school fees, and room and board must be paid by students. As written in the budget, approximately $5500 will be given to each student for tuition by utilizing assistance programs already in place. These have already been used to assist with college tuition for low-income students.
Eligible Students Wishing to Attend Private Colleges Can Get Aid as Well
Students who meet the household income maximum, but find a better fit with a private college, will receive some tuition assistance as well. Allotted in the final budget is $19 million for New York residents attending private colleges. Students can apply to receive up to $3000 from the state to attend private institutions and partake in the program. Those private colleges must agree to match the $3000 funding and keep the tuition the same rate for the student during their time of admission.
With New York leading the U.S. as the first state to offer tuition-free college, Cuomo’s wishes are that the Excelsior Scholarship Program will become a national model. The governor is promoting an effort he hopes the other states will follow to make college affordable for everyone.
By Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Jeanette Smith
USA Today: Free college tuition for middle class students? N.Y. lawmakers vote yes
The New York Times: Cuomo Proposes Free Tuition at New York State Colleges for Eligible Students
The Root: NY Becomes 1st State to OK Free Tuition at Public Colleges for Eligible Students
Featured and Top Image by Daria Romanova Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License