A National First

First-in-the-nation program will provide tuition-free college to middle class families.

Late Friday night, I announced with legislative leaders an agreement on the FY 2018 State Budget, which includes the Excelsior Scholarship.

The Excelsior Scholarship is a first-of-its-kind in the nation program providing tuition-free college at New York’s public colleges and universities to families making up to $125,000 a year.

Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it. The Excelsior Scholarship will make college accessible to thousands of working and middle class students, and shows the difference that government can make.

Under the Excelsior Scholarship, nearly 80 percent, or 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year, would qualify to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in New York State.

The new program will be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019. Scholars must be enrolled in college full-time and average 30 credits per year (including Summer and January semesters) in order to receive the funding, however, the program has built in flexibility so that any student facing hardship is able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits one semester than another.
 
Students are required to maintain a grade point average necessary for the successful completion of their coursework, and, as the program makes a major investment in the state’s greatest asset — our young people — scholars will be required to live and work in-state for the same number of years after graduation as they received the scholarship while in school.

With this budget, we have established a national model for access to higher education, and achieved another New York first. The Excelsior Scholarship program will afford every child the opportunity that education provides.

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