New York will be the only state in the country to offer universal public college tuition coverage for working- and middle-class residents after the program was included in the budget package approved Sunday night.
The state’s Excelsior Scholarship program will be rolled out in tiers over the next three years, starting with full coverage of four-year college tuition this fall for students whose families make less than $100,000. The income cap will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019.
While states like California and Georgia have comprehensive grant and scholarship programs for four-year college as well, New York’s is the nation’s only truly universal program — with no requirements other than residency and income, and no caps on the amount of residents who can receive full tuition.
“With this budget, New York has the nation’s first accessible college program. It’s a different model,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday in a statement. “Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it.”
According to Cuomo’s office, the budget includes a record $7.5 billion for higher education — though that’s only a 6.3 percent increase from 2016. An estimated 80 percent of New York State’s families with college-age kids could use the new program. The governor’s estimate of 940,000 affected families does not include adult students entering college for the first time, who are also eligible.