Student Life

New York State First to Offer Free Tuition at Colleges

Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 09, 2017

New York State First to Offer Free Tuition at Colleges
New York passes bill for free college tuition at state schools.
All eyes will be on New York state next school year. Over the weekend, the New York state legislation passed a bill that would provide free tuition at all two- and four-year public colleges for in-state students. Known as the Excelsior Scholarship, the fund will cover over 1.3 million full-time students at 64 campuses around the state, according to NPR. The idea of free college tuition was first realistically broached by Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election. Both candidates campaigned on the promise to make tuition free at four-year colleges, and now New York will conduct the “nation’s first experiment” in free college. To qualify for free tuition, students must meet certain requirements:
  • Household income must be $100,000 or less (in three years, the minimum household income will increase to $125,000).
  • Must be an undergraduate enrolled at SUNY or CUNY campuses.
  • Commit to living in the state of New York after graduation for the same amount of time they received funding (i.e. if they took advantage of free tuition for three years, graduates must commit to living and working in the state for three years after).
  • No age limits or high school graduation requirement; however, can’t be in default on existing student loans.
  • Must be a United States citizen; the scholarship is not available for permanent residents or refugees.
  • Be a full-time student that maintains a certain GPA.
  • Students enrolled in two-year programs must graduate within two years, just as students in four-year programs must complete their education in four years.

While the measure will save students thousands of dollars over their college career, many are calling the requirement to stay in the state after graduation the “catch-22” of the bill. If students take a job in California before their commitment to live and work in New York has ended, the Excelsior Scholarship becomes a loan and must be repaid. It does not allow room for graduates to pursue career opportunities wherever they choose.
However, students that leave the state to pursue a graduate degree but agree to return to New York after will not have to pay back the tuition money. The state government also plans to accommodate those that leave for military service, reports ABC News. Students also need to bear in mind that there will still be college costs to pay. While tuition will be free, students and their families will stay have to pay room, board and fees. Learn more about free tuition at colleges in New York. In addition to New York, other states have begun to offer free tuition to community colleges. They include:

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