2017-04-19 / Features

First-In-The-Nation Excelsior Scholarship Program


Governor Andrew Cuomo came to LaGuardia Community College to sign into law the Excelsior Scholarship program, a first-in-the-nation program to offer free tuition to all New York public colleges and universities for New York families earning up to $125,000 annually. Years of tuition increases have threatened to put higher education out of reach for many working-class families. The Excelsior Program will help remove some of the barriers that have prevented New Yorkers from getting an affordable higher education. He was joined by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, former Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assembly Members Aravella Simotas and Vivian E. Cooke, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, and Council Members Daneek Miller and Ruben Wills. “I applaud Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state in the nation to make all state universities and colleges tuition free for families who earn up $125,000 annually,” said Rep. Maloney. “With the average college student in New York graduating with nearly $30,000 in student loan debt, it can take decades to pay off student loans, preventing too many New Yorkers from moving forward in their careers, buying homes, or starting families. By making college more affordable, we not only help the graduates but we also boost our economy by educating our workforce. I’m thrilled that New York is leading the nation to make higher education more affordable and accessible for working families.” Governor Andrew Cuomo came to LaGuardia Community College to sign into law the Excelsior Scholarship program, a first-in-the-nation program to offer free tuition to all New York public colleges and universities for New York families earning up to $125,000 annually. Years of tuition increases have threatened to put higher education out of reach for many working-class families. The Excelsior Program will help remove some of the barriers that have prevented New Yorkers from getting an affordable higher education. He was joined by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, former Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assembly Members Aravella Simotas and Vivian E. Cooke, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, and Council Members Daneek Miller and Ruben Wills. “I applaud Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state in the nation to make all state universities and colleges tuition free for families who earn up $125,000 annually,” said Rep. Maloney. “With the average college student in New York graduating with nearly $30,000 in student loan debt, it can take decades to pay off student loans, preventing too many New Yorkers from moving forward in their careers, buying homes, or starting families. By making college more affordable, we not only help the graduates but we also boost our economy by educating our workforce. I’m thrilled that New York is leading the nation to make higher education more affordable and accessible for working families.” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on April 12 enacting the Excelsior Scholarship, the first-of-its-kind in the nation program to provide tuition-free college at New York’s public universities to families making up to $125,000 a year. The legislation was passed as part of the FY 2018 Budget, and was the Governor’s first proposal in his 2017 State of the State. The Budget additionally includes $8 million to provide open educational resources, including e-books, to students at SUNY and CUNY colleges to help defray the cost of textbooks. The Governor signed the legislation at LaGuardia Community College, joined by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“By providing tuition-free college to thousands of middle class New Yorkers, we are restoring the promise of the American Dream for the next generation, and forging a bold path forward of access and opportunity for the rest of the nation to follow,” Governor Cuomo said. ”With a college education now a necessity to succeed in today’s economy, I am proud to sign this first-in-the-nation legislation that will make college accessible, strengthen the middle class, and build a brighter future for all New Yorkers.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, the first presidential candidate to propose free college tuition as part of his platform last year, said, ”Every American, regardless of income, must have the right to a higher education. In a competitive global economy with rapid changes in technology, we must make public colleges and universities tuition-free. I congratulate Governor Cuomo and New York State for helping to lead the nation in that direction.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, ”New York State has long been a pioneer in education. Taking this next step to make college tuition-free for hardworking families is the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. I was proud to put this plan forward during my campaign, and I’m thrilled that it’s become a reality in New York. 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.”

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

In New York City, 461,499 families have college-age children, and 84.3% of them are eligible for the scholarship.

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. The program, however, includes 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. 84% of SUNY and CUNY students remain in New York after graduation.

The budget provides a record $7.5 billion in total support for higher education, a $448 million, or 6.3%, increase over last year. These initiatives build on the Governor’s commitment to making college affordable for all students in the Empire State, including the nation-leading “Get On Your Feet” Loan Forgiveness Program, which allows eligible college graduates living in New York to pay nothing on their student loans for the first two years out of school By 2024, 3.5 million jobs in New York State will require an associate’s degree or higher – roughly 420,000 more jobs than in 2014. The Excelsior Scholarship will equip students with the skills they need to succeed, and ensure they are able to secure the high-tech, high-paying jobs of tomorrow.

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