NY could become largest state to offer free college tuition

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The plan proposes a tuition-free SUNY and CUNY education for students, actually increases SUNY and CUNY tuition for thousands of more students who do not qualify under the governor's plan, Skoufis maintained.

According to the Governor's Office, 78.8 percent of the68,712 Western New York families with college-age students will be eligible for the program.

The scholarship, which was introduced by Gov. Cuomo in January, will cover tuition that isn't supplemented by grants or loans from the federal government or the state.

NY is the first state to offer free four-year tuition. These soaring costs have saddled students with debt or, in some cases, made it impossible for them to pursue higher education. "The concept of investing in you and your education is that you're going to stay here and be an asset to the state".

But the Excelsior Scholarship doesn't provide money for things like room and board, which is about $6,000 at SUNY Canton. "I hope students, families, and educators across our country will continue to speak out on this issue, and call on more states to follow suit".

There are other limits to Excelsior Scholarships than the income cap. "So I think it's a great opportunity".

Ashley Mendez, 18, a journalism and communications major, said the proposal is a fair compromise because many residents will stay anyway.

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Private colleges will receive a lot less aid with the new state budget. "I wouldn't leave the state for anything", Mendez said. If students take advantage of the tuition plan, they must stay in NY after graduation for the same number of years they received the scholarship.

"It's absolutely bait and switch", she said. "That's the only way you can really better society and raise the standards of the community".

The tuition initiative is part of a new state budget approved Sunday by the state Senate, a day after the Assembly approved it.

While New York is the first state to begin offering free tuition at four-year public colleges and Universities, two states offer similar plans for two-year schools.

Gov. Cuomo also contends that the measure will also be good for the state.

In addition, those eligible to receive the scholarship must take 30 credits a year - a requirement which has drawn criticism from some lawmakers, as it excludes part-time students.