New York just became the first state in the US to make tuition free for middle class students at both two- and four-year public colleges. It all happened abut 7 AM today when the NY State Legislature approved Governor Cuomo’s tuition free plan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced the tuition-free plan in January. Lawmakers agreed to include it in the state budget, which was approved by the Assembly on Saturday and by the Senate late Sunday night. The governor is expected to sign the budget bills.
Tuition will be free for residents who earn up to a specific income cap, which will be phased in over the first three years.
Starting this fall, undergraduate students who attend a State University of New York or City University of New York school will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship if their families earn no more than $100,000 a year. The income cap will lift to $110,000 next year and will reach $125,000 in 2019.
Those eligible will pay nothing for tuition, which costs $6,470 annually at four-year schools and about $4,350 a year at community colleges. But they will still be on the hook for the cost of fees and room and board if they live on campus. Those other expenses can add up to $14,000 a year.
Students must take 30 credits a year to receive the scholarship. Some lawmakers had spoken out against this requirement, because it excludes students who enroll part time.
In the final proposal, Cuomo said the credit requirement is “flexible” so that any student facing hardship will be able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits one semester than another.
After they graduate, students who receive the scholarship must live and work in New York for the same number of years they received funding. If they leave the state, their scholarship will be converted into a loan. This requirement was not included in the governor’s initial proposal.
“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.
At SUNY’s State-operated campuses (University Centers, University Colleges, and Technology Colleges), students are generally considered New York State residents if they have established their domicile in New York State for at least twelve months prior to the last day of the registration period of a particular term.