New York Governor Proposes Plan for Tuition-Free College

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday a proposal to provide free tuition for students attending any of the state’s public colleges and universities, sustaining the push by many liberals for tuition-free college.

The plan would aid hundreds of thousands of students from low- and middle-income households, specifically those whose families earn $125,000 or less a year. Any individuals who meet income eligibility requirements and have been admitted to any two- or four-year city or state college in New York — including those in the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems — will be covered under the governor’s plan.

Accompanied by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a long-time advocate for tuition-free college, Cuomo unveiled his vision for the plan Tuesday at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. According to The New York Times, the program, called the Excelsior Scholarship, is designed to build on existing state and federal loan programs and is estimated to cost $163 million.

Cuomo expressed his hope that the Excelsior Scholarship will get a quick start, with a three-year rollout beginning in fall 2017. However, the plan is still awaiting legislative approval, and how the program will be funded is not yet clear. His administration has said, though, that the state has already provided $1 billion in support through its tuition assistance program. Proponents believe the initiative, should it be approved, will greatly improve access to higher education for low-income populations by helping nearly one million individuals qualify for free tuition.

Sanders expressed his support for the effort, saying he believes it will in turn inspire others. “If New York … does it this year,” he said, “state after state will follow.”