Plan For Free Tuition At CUNY And SUNY


Middle class students in New York State got potentially good news from Governor Andrew Cuomo. Free tuition for students who normally don’t qualify for financial aid because of their family’s income could become a reality in the state and allow hundreds of thousands to graduate without debt.

Governor Cuomo proposed a new state scholarship for students with a family income of up to $125,000 that will cover the cost of their education at State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) schools.  Since the mid-seventies, and the advent of tuition for all at CUNY, only low-income students qualified for state scholarships for a free ride at state and city schools. In 2011 at CUNY schools, 48 percent of students received Pell Grants, payments that paid for all tuition.

But Cuomo’s proposal to create the Excelsior Scholarship has the potential to benefit 940,000 families almost immediately.  Average tuition at SUNY and CUNY hovers around the $6,400 range annually.  A tuition break would allow graduates to move on with their lives without struggling to pay yesterday’s bills.

At a news conference with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Cuomo said, “New York is making a major investment in our greatest asset — our people — and supporting the dreams and ambitions of those who want a better life and are willing to work hard for it.”

Senator Sanders, who graduated from New York City public schools and attended Brooklyn College for a year, praised the initiative and said,  “If the United States is to succeed in a highly global economy, we need the best workforce in the world.”

The plan needs the approval of New York’s Assembly and Senate and Sanders had a message for those elected officials: “I urge New York legislators to pass this enormously important proposal, and become a model for the nation.”

If the legislature agrees, the program could go into effect during the fall of 2017.

We’ll keep an eye on how this develops. 

Here’s a clip of Bernie Sanders at the news conference: 

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.