New York will be the first state to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for students under a state budget approved by lawmakers on April 9, 2017. A $153 billion state budget proposal that passed the state Senate late Sunday after being endorsed by the Assembly a day earlier includes the tuition plan that will be phased in over three years. State residents making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019 will qualify.
Cuomo's office says some 940,000 families will be covered under the program. The initiative also includes $19 million for a new tuition award program for students at private colleges. New York’s tuition-free degree program, known as, The Excelsior Scholarship, requires participating students to be enrolled at a SUNY or CUNY two- or four-year college full-time.
The Excelsior Scholarship program will ensure that students statewide, regardless of their socio-economic status, have the opportunity to receive a quality education and gain the skills they need to succeed in our global economy.
"A college education is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility, and with these first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarships, we’re providing the opportunity for New Yorkers to succeed, no matter what zip code they come from and without the anchor of student debt weighing them down," Governor Cuomo said. "New York is making a major investment in our greatest asset – our people – and supporting the dreams and ambitions of those who want a better life and are willing to work hard for it. I am honored to have the support of Senator Sanders, who led the way on making college affordability a right, and I know that together we can make this a reality with New York leading the way once again."
By leveraging New York State’s generous aid programs like the Tuition Assistance Program or TAP, which provides nearly $1 billion in grants to college students statewide the initiative will start. Under the program, eligible students would still receive TAP and any applicable federal grants. Additional state funds would cover the remaining tuition costs for incoming or existing eligible students.
With an average annual tuition ranging from $6,470-$6,330 at SUNY and CUNY for a bachelor’s degree and $4,350-$4,800 for an associate’s degree, the more time a student spends in college, the higher the level of debt. By mandating that students be enrolled full-time, New York’s free tuition program will work to improve graduation rates and alleviate the heavy burden of student debt by encouraging more students to graduate on time in two to four years.
Studies show a person with a bachelor’s degree, on average, will earn about 66 percent more over his or her lifetime than a person without a college degree. Those with an associate’s degree can expect to earn 24 percent more than a person with a high school diploma. Moreover, a college education is increasingly becoming a necessity, not a luxury. According to projections by the New York State Department of Labor, approximately 3.5 million jobs statewide will require an associate’s degree or higher by 2024. As the landscape of the global economy continues to shift, investing in a highly-qualified, highly-educated workforce has never been more important.
This program offers an empowering opportunity for the residents that surround CUNY and SUNY colleges throughout the state. Students will have to maintain full-time status, a passing GPA and will not receive aid for room and board. This encourages students to stay local and focus their studies at the community level. It will have a positive impact on CUNY and SUNY institutions providing increased and evolved services for their local communities.
What are your thoughts on local CUNY and SUNY Institutions participating in local communities and fostering innovation and sustainability?
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