New York State will soon be known as the "nation's first free-tuition program for middle-class families," and is ready to offer free college tuition to public colleges for in-state residents with adjusted gross incomes of $125,000 a year or less, according to the Associated Press.
The free college tuition plan, called the Excelsior Scholarship is a part of a $153-billion state budget that was approved by State Senate this past weekend and will allow students from qualifying families to enroll at campuses of the State University of New York or the City University of New York. Beginning in fall of 2017, the college scholarship program will be available to students whose families earn $100,000 or less a year; the income limit will raise to $125,000 by 2019.
An estimated 940,000 families will qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship. In order to be eligible for the free college tuition program, students must be enrolled as full-time students with an average 30 credits/year and maintain a satisfactory GPA. What's the catch? College scholarship recipients must live and work in New York for "the same number of years that they received the scholarship," and room and board are not covered by the college scholarship program. "Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and move to California?" asked Governor Cuomo.
Some lawmakers are calling Governor Cuomo's free college tuition a "sham," as its requirements are reportedly too strict for those enrolled part-time or have side jobs; a total of 120 credit hours must be completed in four years to maintain eligibility. Furthermore, the college scholarship plan could mean an increase in tuition by $200 a year for the next three years at SUNY and CUNY.
Beginning in 2018, students will not be eligible to receive TAP college grants from the state's tuition program if they choose to attend private colleges "that do not comply with the [tuition] cap." In doing this, "you're not giving the student the money that would help them with the choice of where they want to go to school," according to the President of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.
While not all states are currently offering free college scholarship and tuition initiatives yet, there are plenty of college scholarship opportunities out there - not all of which require you to attend a specific college. However, if you are interested in college scholarships by state, check out the many ways in which you can help pay down your tuition bill.