New York Just Became The First State To Offer Free Tuition For Public Colleges

New York is the first in the nation to offer tuition grants of this nature.

Credit: New York Times

In a historic decision that other states are already thinking of following, the state of New York has just launched a program that will cover the cost of tuition for all students attending any public university, including community colleges. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law on Wednesday following the legislature’s approval to include it into the state budget.

Cuomo made the program official at a ceremony that celebrated its inauguration, which was attended by supporters of the measure, including 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and students of public colleges.

“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,” 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.”

San Francisco was the first city in the United States to offer free tuition to its residents for community college only, which was huge news given the political climate since President Donald Trump had just been inaugurated only weeks before. Rhode Island wants to follow in the Bay Area city’s footsteps and offer the same to their residents, as making the first two years of college free for students can make a world of difference.

Credit: Sam Hodgson

For New York’s program, the tuition subsidies will only cover tuition that normal federal and state grants don’t already cover, and won’t include any extra necessities like living expenses. Any full-time student with parents who don’t make more than $100,000 will qualify for the subsidies, but in two years that limit will extend to $125,000.

Since free tuition is a partisan issue that Republicans disagree with, they made a compromise by approving the bill only after adding their amendments, one of which is that the students receiving the aid must work in New York for as many years as they received aid. If they don’t, their grant will turn into a loan. Republicans are also the ones that lobbied for the aid to only be given to full-time students, despite the fact that part-time students could frequently benefit from the financial help as well. Though many have been quick to point out that these amendments make the program less than perfect, others have rallied in support for it.

“The program’s 30-credit requirement [a full course load in the state] – which has been criticized by some – is a research-proven strategy to raise GPAs, increase retention rates and ultimately boost college completion in the state,” Tom Sugar, president of Complete College America, said in a statement posted online.

New York’s plan is being used as an example for supporters of the program that want their home state to approve of similar measures in order to make college more accessible for all. While senators in Congress continue to fight for free tuition on a federal level, states are looking to do so in their regions as well.

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