Gov. Cuomo signs bill giving free SUNY tuition to qualifying students

In the fall, undergrad students who attend State University of NY or City University of NY establishments will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship if their families earn no more than $100,000 a year. The cap for eligibility will be raised to $110,000 in 2018 and to $125,000 in 2019. These soaring costs have saddled students with debt or, in some cases, made it impossible for them to pursue higher education.

Once students graduate, they must live and work in NY for as many years as their schooling was funded.

"With investment to bring a SUNY education within reach for all New Yorkers, this year's budget is affirmation from the State that our colleges and universities offer a top-quality higher education that prepares students for career success and is among the most affordable in the world", they said in a statement. Bernie Sanders at a press conference to announce plans for the Excelsior Scholarship. It will provide paid college tuition to eligible families earning $125,000 or less to attend any state college or university.

New York's program echoes a plan that Clinton proposed during her presidential bid previous year to eliminate college tuition for most families. Clinton served as one of New York's U.S senators from 2001 to 2009.

The program will be phased in over a period of three years, beginning with students whose families make less than $100,000 in fall 2017, the governor's office said.

The scholarship covers the full cost of tuition, now $6,470 per year at four-year schools and $4,350 at community colleges.

Although there are many unanswered questions about the Excelsior Scholarship Program, both the president of SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam are excited about the program since so many of their students come from NY state. The scholarship however, will apply only to full-time students and will not cover room and board and other fees, only the tuition.

In addition to approving the Excelsior Scholarship program, the legislature also agreed to provide $8 million for open educational resources, such as e-books. In the 2015-2016 school year, about 127,974 Latinos - making up almost 20 percent of the undergraduate student population - attended CUNY and SUNY schools throughout the state.

In a statement on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the Excelsior Scholarship Program, "With this budget, NY has the nation's first accessible college program". They will have to turn to other programs, like New York's "Get on Your Feet" program, to help them with student loans.

With tuition at a NY state community college clocking in at $4,350, and their state university counterpart coming in about $2,000 more, the necessity to alleviate educational debt is apparent. The initiative also includes $19 million for a tuition award program for students at private colleges.

  • Joanne Flowers