New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, Makes College Tuition Free For Residents

On Sunday, the New York Assembly approved a budget that included the initiative, making the state the first state in the country to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students. Now, families whose incomes are less than $100,000 can avail no-fee education at the schools of the State University of New York (SUNY) starting this fall.

NY students whose families make up to $100,000 per year will be eligible for free tuition at the state’s public colleges in the fall of 2017.

There are a few terms and conditions, like the requirement that students have to take 30 credits per year and have to live and work in NY for the same number of years they received the aid after graduation.

But New York will be the first state to make tuition free for some residents at four-year public colleges.

Legislation providing free tuition for students from families who make $125,000 per year or less was approved as part of the budget this week.

In what was seen as a nod to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in January proposed offering free tuition to students from low- and middle-income families. Half of full-time SUNY students and more than 60 percent of CUNY students already do not pay for tuition because of Pell Grants or New York Tuition Assistance Grants.

The Excelsior Scholarship will be rolled out over a three-year period.

The scholarship will cost an estimated $163 million in the first year, according to Cuomo’s office.

NY has two public university systems. Those students would not be eligible for the scholarship. Students must still foot the bill for room and board. “I have students choosing between a MetroCard and lunch, or sharing books with other students”, said Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College. Students would be required to take 30 credits a year to maintain the scholarship, which would exclude part-time students.

There is no age limit, and a student does not have to be a recent high-school graduate. Eligible students would get a maximum of $3,000.

This is a vital step in making an education easier to achieve, and hopefully other states will follow New York’s lead. Previously, Tennessee and OR created programs that made community college tuition-free – Tennessee’s initiative in particular inspired former President Obama’s free community college plan.

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