New York State Free Tuition Program Marks Progress, But Not Quite a Free College Degree

On Friday, New York Legislature passed The Excelsior Scholarship, a free tuition program, which will be in effect this fall.

Undergraduate students who attend a State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) school will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship if their families earn no more than $100,000 a year.

The income cap will lift to $110,000 next year and will reach $125,000 in 2019.

Students eligible for this scholarship will pay nothing when it comes to tuition, which costs a little more than $6,000 a year at a four-year university or a little more than $4,000 a year at a community college.

Yet, this scholarship doesn’t cover the cost of room and board, meal plans or additional costs that the schools charge students when they attend. These additional costs can add as much as $15,000 to the total cost of attendance.

Another guideline of this scholarship is that students must take 30 credits during the academic year to remain eligible. This decision upsets some lawmakers, due to the fact that this disqualifies those who go to school part time.

After graduation, students who receive the scholarship must live and work in New York for the same number of years they received funding. If they leave the state, their scholarship will be converted into a loan.

By having these stipulations, New York taxpayers are protected if people abuse the system.

Finally, there is no age cap on this scholarship. Anyone is eligible, ranging from recent high school graduates to adults pursuing first-time degrees. Also, students cannot already have existing federal or state student loans.

The Excelsior Scholarship does not make college free in New York State; this scholarship just pays for half the cost of attending college. Yet, it is important to note that this is the step in the right direction for affordable public higher education.

Natalie Yera

Natalie Yera

Natalie Yera is in her first year of the M.A. program in publishing and writing at Emerson College. She recently returned from spending five months studying in London and a month backpacking through parts of Eastern and Western Europe. She is originally from Buffalo, New York. Follow her at @NatalieYera.