The state of New York has become the first to sign off on free tuition for middle and low-income students at two and four-year public colleges.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo first introduced the plan back in January, with lawmakers agreeing to include it in the state’s budget. The budget was then approved by the Assembly on Saturday and by the Senate last week. “Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.
The plan, known as the Excelsior Scholarship, is set to be phased in over three years. Tuition will be free for students if their families don’t earn any more than $100K a year. That cap is then going to rise to $110,000 the next year, with plans to reach up to $125K by 2019!
Those students that are eligible won’t have to pay for tuition, but the catch is that they will still have to pay for room and board if they decide to live on campus, which can be an extra $14 grand, depending on where you stay. The students must also take at least 30 credits a year, which excludes part-time students, unfortunately. However, Gov. Cuomo says that that requirement will be flexible, allowing students who may struggle to pause and restart the program or take fewer credits one semester.
The biggest catch, though, is that the students who get the scholarship have to live and work in New York after graduation for the same number of years for which they receive funding. Those who do choose to leave the state will have the scholarship converted into a loan. Damn! It’s a little understandable that the state of New York would want their students to contribute to the state, but still. If a student gets opportunities outside of the state, this term of the scholarship would be hindering.
Even though it definitely has a few downfalls, it’s still a great idea to be able to assist students with their tuition. Not having enough money really shouldn’t be the only reason someone doesn’t go to college, so at least the state is doing something to help!