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NY proposes free college tuition; KY launches new program

January 05, 2017

Two states are looking to make college more affordable through state programs aimed at decreasing or eliminating tuition costs. The New York legislature will decide the fate of a new proposal for free tuition at its state universities for middle income earners there, while in Kentucky students may be eligible for financial aid through the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program.

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the first signature proposal of his 2017 agenda: making college tuition-free for New York’s middle class families at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges. If the proposal is passed by the legislature, the new initiative would be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019.  Once fully phased in, the tuition assistance is projected to cost $163 million annually. The initiative would work by leveraging New York State’s other aid programs, such as the Tuition Assistance Program and other federal grants. The additional state funding would cover remaining costs for eligible students.  

In 2014, Gov. Cuomo proposed and the legislature passed a STEM scholarship that provided $8 million in funding for full tuition scholarships to any SUNY or CUNY institutions for New York high school students in the top 10 percent of their class if they pursue a STEM degree and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for five years after graduation.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on December 21 signed Executive Order 2016-912 that establishes the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program, which will award financial aid to eligible students starting with the 2017-2018 school year. Students must pursue a two-year degree (or another industry-recognized credential) in one of Kentucky’s top five high-demand workforce sectors, including: advanced manufacturing, health care, transportation/logistics, business services/IT, and construction. The state legislature approved a bill earlier this year that would have established a work-ready program, but the governor vetoed that measure and dropped $9.4 million from the FY 2017 budget that was for some 2016-2017 scholarships. The governor did, however, leave $15.9 million in the 2016-2018 biennial budget to cover scholarships in 2017-2018.

Kentucky, New Yorkhigher ed