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New York Is First State to Approve Tuition-Free College

Unsplash / Faustin Tuyambaze

The only thing seemingly more expensive than putting a person through college is living in New York City. The idea of combining the two seems like a recipe for the life of pizza rat, but the reality is college could soon cost less than a dollar slice. Because a tuition-free plan, introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo back in January, was just approved by the State Assembly this past Saturday and Senate late Sunday night. All Cuomo has to do is sign the budget and his plan will go into effect this fall.

The new plan works like this. Residents attending a State or City University of New York school whose families make no more than $100,000 a year will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, which pays for all of their tuition. The program, which will be implemented over three years, will lift this income cap to $110,000 next year and will reach $125,000 in 2019. However, the program covers tuition and tuition only, so students will still have to come up with the cash for room and board.

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After students who receive the scholarship graduate, they’re required to live and work in New York for the same number of years they received funding — a change worth noting, as it was not in the governor’s original proposal. No NYC bouncer is going to stop them from moving out of state, but their scholarship will be converted into a loan if they do. Other caveats include that students are required to take 30 credits to be eligible and it excludes private colleges.

If approved as expected, the new plan will make New York the first state to make tuition free for middle-class residents at four-year colleges. To borrow a phrase from the President who likely hates this, that’s huge. Rhode Island is considering a similar proposal to make two years of college tuition-free and Tennessee, Oregon, and the city of San Francisco have also made community college tuition-free for residents regardless of income. But New York’s move makes the biggest statement, which is a really New York thing to do.