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New York Becomes the First State to Make College Tuition Free

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Legislators resolved the last legal hurdle to make New York the only state in the US to waive tuition in public colleges and universities.

Andrew Cuomo speaks about New York offering free college tuition

Monica Schipper/GettyImages

On Friday, all questions on the $163 billion budget were set aside, which means an approval by the State Senate is forthcoming. One of the most significant programs in the budget is the Excelsior Scholarship, which allocates funding for any New Yorker who gets accepted to 2-year or 4-year community colleges and universities, respectively.

“Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it,”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement, as published by The Washington Post. “With this program, every child will have the opportunity that education provides.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The scholarship program will start this fall, but will only be limited to families with household income of $100,000 annually. Next year, the rate will increase to $110,000 and $125,000 in 2019. The Post said that around 1 million are expected to benefit from the program. In 2019, for instance, Cuomo said around 200,000 students will qualify for a scholarship.

The budget allocated $6,470 each year for a scholar’s tuition taking a four-year degree, $4,350 for a two-year certificate.

While low-income families laud the move on free tuition in New York, analysts believe that it will come at a high cost. As early as January this year, Beth Akers, senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, said that the taxpayers always end up with the raw end of the deal.

Bernie Sanders and Andrew Cuomo in New York

Charles Eckert/AMNY.com

“I really have one big complaint about Cuomo’s proposal and it is largely regressive. Free college proposals, in general, tend to benefit more well-off households,” she told CNBC. In particular, this one is even worse in the way it’s designed.”

For example, Akers said that low-income families won’t still be able to send their children to college because the free tuition program for New York as it is designed does not cover lodging, books, transportation and miscellaneous fees.

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