New York OKs Free College Education For State Residents: 'Nation's First Accessible College Program'

By Olivia Etienne, Parent Herald April 11, 04:00 am
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New York governor and proponent of the Excelsior Scholarship program, Andrew M. Cuomo, speaks during the HELP USA 30th anniversary event.
(Photo : Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

Over 80 percent of families with children in college will benefit from New York's recently approved law providing free higher education among its residents. The state's feat was the first of its kind in the United States, making college as accessible as lower-school education.

New York officials approved the Excelsior Scholar program to all middle-class families earning less than $100,000 annually. State governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed the law on January and aimed to cover all two-year and four-year college courses, per NBC News.

The report further says that the grant will be executed in a staggered manner, starting this fall until it culminates in the next three years. For this year, New York's income cap for eligible families is $100,000; it will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and will finally rest to $125,000 in 2019.

"With this budget, New York has the nation's first accessible college program. It's a different model," Cuomo said in a statement. "Today, college is what high school was-it should always be an option even if you can't afford it."

Moreover, Cuomo further explained that the program will require students to be enrolled full-time. Students also need to maintain a certain GPA threshold in order to keep the scholarship.

Many citizens heralded the Excelsior Scholar program as breakthrough, especially during these times that education is starting to become a privilege rather than a right. However, New Republic reported that a number of progressives criticized the program for its income caps that made it still limited and not entirely free for all.

Earlier this year, critics also commented of how the program can still put students in debt if the expenses will not be covered by the state government, given that education costs not only tuition, according to The Atlantic. In aid to this concern, Cuomo's program allotted $8 million for electronic books, on top of the state's $7.5 billion budget, to lessen the burden among students.

Cuomo added that the program will benefit what he touted as the state's greatest asset, New York's young people. Excelsior program also required benefactors to work for the in-state for the same number of years they have studied in a New York public institution.

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