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New York's Free Tuition

Friday, 14 April 2017

by Staff, Spaulding Law

The State of New York has just announced that starting this fall, undergraduate students attending a State University of New York or a City University of New York may be eligible for a scholarship that will reduce their fees to nothing. This scholarship (The Excelsior Scholarship) will be offered to students if their families earn no more than $100,000 annually. This cap will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and to $125,000 in 2019. Students must also take 30 credits a year to be eligible. This doesn’t necessarily mean 15 credits each semester, a student could take fewer credits one semester and increase their credits in another. Students may also be able pause and restart their participation in the program if they are facing hardship.

The scholarship is not necessarily intended to be free money. Students receiving the scholarship are expected to contribute to the New York economy. They will be required to live and work in New York for the same number of years for which they received funding. If they choose to leave, the money will be considered a student loan and will have to be repaid.

In a statement explaining why he introduced the bill, Governor Cuomo said, "Today, college is what high school was -- it should always be an option even if you can't afford it." However, with an estimated 200,000 students eligible for the fully implemented program, one has to wonder about the cost. Many colleges are expecting to have more students due to the scholarship. The Governor’s office has estimated that the scholarship will cost $163 million in the first year, but there are questions as to how accurate that number really is. This estimation takes into account other financial aid received by these students. If the number of students increases or the amount financial aid received decreases, the costs of this scholarship could grow very quickly.

One of the criticisms of the bill was that initially it didn’t provide assistance for students attending private schools. The final budget now includes an additional $19 million in financial aid for students attending private schools in the same income bracket. However, participating colleges must match the funding provided by the state and agree not to raise tuition costs for that student during their enrollment. These students are eligible for a maximum award of $3,000 from the state which will likely still leave them with some tuition costs, but will greatly reduce this burden as they work toward their degree.

With other states considering similar bills, it will be interesting to see what the cost will be, how it changes enrollment numbers, and how it affects the job market.

This information is made available by Spaulding Law for educational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Spaulding Law, unless you have entered into a separate representation agreement. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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