Almost a million families across New York State got some good news from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
At a joint press conference Friday, the governor announced that the state legislature and executive branch have come to an agreement on the 2017-18 Executive Budget.
The budget provides a record $7.5 billion in support for higher education, a $448 million, or 6.3 percent, increase over last year.
The budget additionally includes $8 million to provide open educational resources, including e-books, to students at SUNY and CUNY colleges to help defray the high cost of textbooks.
According to the governor’s office, the initiatives build on the commitment to make college affordable for students in the Empire State, including the ‘Get On Your Feet’ Loan Forgiveness Program, which allows eligible college graduates living in New York to pay nothing on their student loans for the first two years out of school.
“With this budget, New York has the nation’s first accessible college program. It’s a different model,” said Governor Cuomo.
“Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it. The Excelsior Scholarship will make college accessible to thousands of working- and middle-class students and shows the difference that government can make. There is no child who will go to sleep tonight and say, I have great dreams, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get a college education because parents can’t afford it. With this program, every child will have the opportunity that education provides,” the governor said.
The new program 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.
According to the governor’s office, more than 940,000 families with college-aged children across New York will qualify for tuition-free college at the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY), the public university systems in NY State.
The Excelsior Scholarship was the governor’s first proposal in his 2017 State of the State address–to make college tuition free for New York’s families. On February 7, Gov. Cuomo kicked off the Excelsior Scholarship Campaign to make college tuition free. The Excelsior Scholarship is the first program that will make New York State public universities tuition-free for families making up to $125,000 per year.
Scholars must be enrolled in college full-time and average 30 credits per year (including Summer and January semesters) in order to receive the funding, however, the program has built in flexibility so that any student facing hardship is able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits one semester than another.
Students are required to maintain a grade point average necessary for the successful completion of their coursework, and, as the program makes a major investment in the state’s greatest asset – our young people – scholars will be required to live and work in-state for the same number of years after graduation as they received the scholarship while in school.
SUNY and CUNY are among the largest public university systems in the United States.