It is true that education is the great equalizer, but for too many families, accessing a college education is beyond their reach. I am pleased to announce that this year’s 2017-18 state budget makes a substantial investment in SUNY schools and helps expand access to higher education through the Excelsior Scholarship program.
Working families in New York state and across the nation are seeing the costs of a college education soar as the need for a college degree to access good-paying jobs has become essential.
I was pleased to support this year’s budget, which allows eligible students to attend public colleges and universities tuition-free, helping even more young people make their college dreams come true.
The state budget provides funding to establish the Excelsior Scholarship, a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind initiative to make SUNY schools tuition-free for New Yorkers who earn less than $125,000 annually.
Under the Excelsior Scholarship, nearly 80 percent, or 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year, would qualify to attend college tuition-free at all SUNY two- and four-year colleges in New York state.
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. Students must be enrolled in college full-time and average 30 credits per year (including summer and January semesters) in order to receive the funding.
However, the program has built-in flexibility so that any student facing hardship is able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits in one semester than another.
Students are required to maintain a grade point average necessary for the successful completion of their degree, 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.
The budget also requires the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) to complete a college affordability study examining student loan debt relief and student loan refinancing options as well as affordability initiatives to help find ways to reduce the cost of student textbooks, transportation and housing.