Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal Tuesday morning to make college tuition free for New York's middle-class families.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders joined Cuomo for the first-in-the-nation program announcement at LaGuardia Community College, which will provide free tuition to New Yorkers making up to $125,000 per year at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges.
New York's tuition-free college degree program, the Excelsior Scholarship, will help alleviate the burden of student debt and allow thousand of young adults to achieve higher education goals. Student debt currently reaches $1.2 trillion nationwide, surpassing credit card debt, car debt and home equity lines of credit as the second largest source of consumer debt. In 2015, the average student loan debt in New York was $29,320.
More than 940,000 families and individuals, or 80% of households statewide, will qualify to attend college tuition-free at all public universities in New York State. The Excelsior Scholarship Program will give students statewide the opportunity to receive a quality education and gain the skills they need to succeed, regardless of their socio-economic status.
"A college education is not a luxury - it is a necessity for any chance at economic mobility," said Cuomo. "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."
"If the United States is to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce in the world," said Senator Sanders. "With exploding technology, and with most to the good paying jobs requiring more and more education, we need to make certain that every New Yorker, every Vermonter and every American gets all the education they need regardless of family income. In other words, we must make public colleges and universities tuition free for the middle-class and working families of our country."
Enrollment projections expect the plan to cost about $163 million per year once fully phased in. It will 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.
The tuition free program also incentivizes students to graduate from college on time.