New York Just Made Tuition Free for Students Whose Parents Earn Under $100,000 a Year and the Rest of the Country May Follow Suit

New York State is rolling out an initiative that aims to cover community college and four-year public university tuition for anyone whose parents make under $100,000 a year.

Called the Excelsior Scholarship, the program will cover any tuition costs left over after Pell grants and the New York Tuition Assistance Program, provided that the student and his or her parents make under $100,000 for 2017, $110,000 for Fall semester of 2018, and $125,000 for Fall semester 2019.

There are a few stipulations that come along with the money, the biggest one making a requirement for students to attend a public university or community college. A 30 credit hour minimum requirement per year is also required, though that can include Summer classes. Finally, if a student does take advantage of the program, they will be required to live and work in New York for either 2 or 4 years, depending on whether they went to a 2 or 4 year university. If they move within that time, the amount of money the state covered will be converted into student loans.

With the skyrocketing costs of higher education showing no signs of slowing down, New York is probably the first of many states that will be doing something similar in the not too distant future. Eventually, state programs may end up being replaced by a Federal program, either something brand new, or something akin to a major expansion of Pell grants.

It should be noted that tuition is often only about half of the cost of going to college at a four year university. Room & board are not included, but it does help that for a majority of the college aged population in New York, at least half of their total college bill will no longer be a problem.

The state of New York is kind of in a unique position to roll a program like this out. The state’s budget is a little over $160 billion for 2018, just behind California’s $170 billion, good for second largest in the nation. Excelsior Scholarship funds are projected to remain under $200 million in 2019, composing a little more than one-tenth of one percent of the state’s budget. Other states with high populations have a lower tax base, while states quite a bit smaller population-wise would be looking at a much larger bill as a percentage of total state expenditures.

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