In Other Ivory Towers

On Oct. 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 22,000 students have received the Excelsior Scholarship, a new program for State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) in-state, full-time students, which will allow them to attend college without paying tuition.

These 22,000 students, who amount to about 6 percent of full-time in-state students, add to a total of over 53 percent, or 210,000, New York residents who now attend college tuition-free. The program will expand in the coming years. Students with household incomes below $100,000 are currently eligible, and over the next two years that figure will jump to $110,000, then $125,000. When the program was initially announced in April, Cuomo predicted that, at its full size, 940,000 New York students (the number which have household incomes below $125,000), would be able to attend college without paying tuition.

Tuition for the 2017-2018 year for New York residents at SUNY schools is $6670, while at CUNY 4-year schools is $6530 and at community colleges it is $4800 per year. The program is estimated to cost $163 million per year and accompanies a $448 million in education spending by the New York government.

“The dream of an affordable college education is now a reality for tens of thousands of Excelsior Scholarship recipients,” Guillermo Linares, acting president of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, said in a release.

The scholarship is a “last-dollar program,” which means that students must apply for other sources of aid before receiving the scholarship. For low-income students, this means that the program covers tuition after deducting the amount they receive from aid like Pell Grants. The program also stipulates that students must live and work in New York for the number of years equal to those for which they received the scholarship. Otherwise, the scholarship must be paid back as a loan. Students must also stay on track to graduate and colleges may impose GPA requirements.

The program follows the lead of states like Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee that have already implemented community college programs and other institutions that offer free-tuition programs. New York is the first state, though, to include students who are attending four-year institutions in addition to those at community college.

“This innovative investment in our students will pay dividends for decades to come and sets a standard for college affordability for the rest of the country to follow,” CUNY Board of Trustees Chairperson William C. Thompson, Jr., said in a release.