Governor Cuomo was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he signed legislation on Wednesday to enact the nation's first tuition-free college program.
The Excelsior Scholarship program provides middle class families free tuition to New York State public universities. This applies to families making up to $125,000 per year.
According to Governor Cuomo, almost 80%, or more than 940,000 families with college-aged children in the state, apply for tuition-free college at SUNY and CUNY schools. In Western New York, 68,712 families, or 78.8%, are eligible for this program.
Legislation for the Excelsior Scholarship was passed in the FY 2018 Budget. The Budget also includes $8 million to provide open education resources to students at SUNY and CUNY colleges.
"By providing tuition-free college to thousands of middle class New Yorkers, we are restoring the promise of the American Dream for the next generation and forging a bold path forward of access and opportunity for the rest of the nation to follow," said Governor Cuomo. "With a college education now a necessity to succeed in today's economy, I am proud to sign this first-in-the-nation legislation that will make college accessible, strengthen the middle class, and build a brighter future for all New Yorkers."
"New York State has long been a pioneer in education," said Clinton. "Taking this next step to make college tuition-free for hardworking families is the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. I was proud to put this plan forward during my campaign, and I'm thrilled that it's become a reality in New York. I hope students, families, and educators across the country will continue to speak out on this issue, and call on more states to follow suit."
The program will be phased in over three years, beginning with families making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018 and reaching $125,000 in 2019.
Other eligibility requirements include:
- Students must be enrolled in school full-time
- Students must average 30 credits per year
- Students must maintain a grade point average necessary for the completion of their coursework and graduation.
- Students will be required to live and work in-state for the same number of years after graduation as they received the scholarship