Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
Life&Culture | By Kristin Armstrong

New York lawmakers approve free middle class college tuition

New York lawmakers approve free middle class college tuition

NY will became the first state in the nation to guarantee free tuition for the middle class at public four-year college Sunday. The budget includes a record $7.5 billion for higher education.

In light of the budget passing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo arrived in Buffalo to talk about his success in doing just that - claiming the catch phrase "got it done".

The Excelsior Scholarship will be phased in over the course of three years.

Starting this fall, undergraduate students who attend a state university or a will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship if their families earn no more than US$100,000 a year. That limit will raise to $110,000 next year and $120,000 in 2019. Annual tuition at four-year state schools is now $6,470 and around $4,350 at two-year community colleges.

In addition, those eligible to receive the scholarship must take 30 credits a year - a requirement which has drawn criticism from some lawmakers, as it excludes part-time students. Cuomo continued "The concept of investing in you and your education is that you're going to stay here and be an asset to the state". After students graduate, they are expected to live and work in NY for the same number of years funding was accepted.

Students can receive up to $5,500 in scholarship money, but it's a last minute dollar award - meaning students that qualify for the program can get money after they've received other funding. "It should always be an option even if you can't afford it", Gov. Cuomo said of his groundbreaking proposal.

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Despite the presence of concessions to win over lawmakers, but not much has changed from the initial proposal, which includes $163 million. His office estimated 200,000 students will be affected by the law once it is fully operational.

This is a vital step in making an education easier to achieve, and hopefully other states will follow New York's lead. If students decide to move out of the NY, they are required to pay the state back. The scholarship means students won't pay anything for tuition.

SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall and Chancellor Nancy Zimpher praised the plan, calling it "truly groundbreaking".

Critics of the program point out that low-income students are likely to benefit from it the least.

President at Monroe Community College, Anne Kress, says she's not so sure that this program will take students away from private schools. Though he was not at the bill-signing ceremony, Sanders joined Cuomo at an event previous year announcing his tuition-free community college plan.

"With this budget, NY has the nation's first accessible college program".

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