Late Friday, budget negotiators reached a deal that could potentially make New York the largest state to offer public higher education tuition-free.
The Excelsior Scholarship will be included in the $163 billion state budget agreement. It covers tuition fees for any New Yorker accepted to one of the state’s community colleges or four-year universities, but only if their family earns less than $125,000 a year.
The scholarship was proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo back in January. It addresses one of the Democratic Party’s most popular ideas and helps the progress of the bipartisan efforts aimed at lowering the cost of college which is sweeping through the country.
On Saturday, Cuomo issued a statement where he said: “Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it. With this program, every child will have the opportunity that education provides.”
The program will be introduced on three phases. During the first phase, the scholarship will be available in the fall of 2017for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually. In 2018it will be increased to $110,000, then $125,000 in 2019. Almost 1 million families will qualify for the scholarship.
The scholarship is a last-dollar program, which means the state will cover the left over tuition after federal Pell Grants and New York’s Tuition Assistance Program are factored in.
To qualify, students must be enrolled in college full time and take at least 30 course credits a year. However, those facing hardships can take a break and restart the program or take fewer credits.
Despite the presence of concessions to win over lawmakers, but not much has changed from the initial proposal, which includes $163 million. New Yorkers who attend community college thanks to the scholarship will have to remain in the city for two years after graduating.
Private university leaders said that the plan would negatively affect their schools. However, they will receive an increase in state tuition assistance funding
According to Cuomo’s office, the New York State Assembly voted on the budget on Saturday, and the state Senate should vote in the coming days. The budget includes $7.5 billion supporting higher education, which is a 6.3% increase over the previous year.
Increase in demand and supply:
More local employers are demanding some form of postsecondary education, making states across the country and different political affiliations pay higher attention to college costs. According to the Upjohn Institute, at least 85 initiatives at the municipal and state level are present, their aim is to cover the cost of tuition at community colleges.
Free community-college programs are available in Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota, with Tennessee’s model praised as a viable path for reducing higher education costs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton increased the momentum that has been building for debt-free college for years, with proposals presented during the 2016 presidential campaign to make public higher education free for the majority of American families.
Sanders presented legislation in the U.S. Senate last week to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000. Sanders helped Cuomo unveil the scholarship at LaGuardia Community College in Queens last January.