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NY launches tuition-free college education for New Yorkers

April 13, 2017

On April 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Excelsior Scholarship program will be included in the state’s FY 2018 budget, after having been approved by the legislature. In its first year, the state will commit $163 million to provide tuition-free options for New Yorkers from ‘middle-class’ families at the state’s public institutions of higher education. Under the Excelsior Scholarship program, students can attend any of the colleges or universities that comprise the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems. After completing their degree, the scholarship requires that recipients must work or live in the state after graduation for the same number of years that they receive support. Cuomo contends that over 75 percent of the state’s 940,000 families with college-aged children would qualify for the program.

The program would be phased in over the next three years beginning this fall, as was detailed in an earlier Digest story. Unlike federal grant programs (e.g., Pell Grants) that require only 12 credits per semester, the Excelsior Scholarship program requires that student enroll in college full-time and average 30 credits per year (including summer and January semesters) in order to receive the funding. While the program does not set specific GPA requirements, students are required to maintain a GPA necessary to stay in school and be on track to graduate on time. The program, however, does allow students to pause and restart the program due to economic hardship. Under the program, middle-class families could save up to $25,880 for a four-year degree.

The state’s new budget also includes $8 million to provide open educational resources, including e-books, to students at SUNY and CUNY colleges to help defray the cost of textbooks. For students who attend private colleges in the state, the state will award up to $3,000 in scholarship money, but the college would be required to match the grants as well as freeze tuition for the duration of a student's grant.

New Yorkhigher ed