Applauding New York’s Free Tuition Plan

The College Promise Campaign applauds New York for becoming the first state to provide free tuition for in-state students to attend any of its two or four-year public colleges or universities. The Excelsior Scholarship, first proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo this January, will allow students with family incomes up to $125,000 to earn a college degree tuition-free once they have been accepted at one of the state’s CUNY or SUNY campuses.

While other states, including Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota, have already enacted free tuition programs for community colleges, New York is the first to extend the offer to its four-year universities as well as its community colleges. The Empire State is now also the largest state in the nation to enact a free college tuition program with estimates to serve 200,000 eligible students at any one of its 64 publicly funded community colleges and universities.

“The College Promise Campaign celebrates New York for joining the list of states and communities expanding opportunity for students to complete an undergraduate degree without bearing the burden of college tuition,” said Dr. Martha Kanter, Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign. “Throughout the country, government leaders at the state and local levels are working with business, education, and community partners to develop innovative programs to make a college education free because they acknowledge the necessity of a two or four-year college degree for students to prosper in the 21st Century,” she said. “We appreciate Governor Cuomo and the New York Legislature for taking this bold new step to make higher education possible for thousands more students. The reality is the Excelsior Scholarship has great potential to increase the state’s economic and social prosperity that stems from a better educated middle class.”

While the program will be phased in over three years, the program’s first students will receive funding this fall, starting with students whose family incomes are less than $100,000. Student eligibility will rise to a limit of $125,000 when fully implemented over the three-year period. The new legislation includes a requirement that students live and work in New York for the same number of years they receive the funding. If they leave the state before that time, the scholarship will be converted into a loan. The scholarship will take effect after all other sources of state and federal aid are applied to meet students’ college costs. Governor Cuomo’s office expects the program to cost $163 million this year.

“The promise of higher education, made possible through the Excelsior Scholarship, tells students and families that education beyond high school is critical for success in the workforce and in the rest of their lives!” said Dr. Kanter.

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