Free College in New York: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Is it true? Is New York State offering free college?

Yes, with qualifications.

“New York just became the first state in the nation to make tuition free for middle class students at both two- and four-year public colleges,” reported CNN.

The proposal was placed into the budget by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The plan needed to pass both houses of the State Legislature, and, on April 9, it did. That leaves the proposal only needing the governor’s signature, but since he proposed it in the first place, it’s widely believed that the deal is done.

How do you qualify for the free college in New York?

Here’s what you need to know:

1. People’s Parents Can’t Make Over a Certain Income Threshold to Qualify

New York isn’t offering free college to literally everyone. The state is offering it to people whose parents are not considered wealthy enough to pay for it on their own.

According to KCCI, “Starting this fall, undergraduate students who attend a State University of New York or City University of New York school will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship if their families earn no more than $100,000 a year. The income cap will lift to $110,000 next year and will reach $125,000 in 2019.”

You have to be a state resident, Fortune Magazine reports.

Fortune Magazine reported, “State residents with household incomes under $100,000 will be able to enroll in state public colleges tuition-free. The income limit rises to $125,000 in three years.”

2. The Free Tuition Applies to Two & Four Year Public Institutions in New York

Students wanting to apply for the free tuition will have a wide range of public universities to contemplate.

The Washington Post reports that the plan applies to “any New Yorker accepted to one of the state’s community colleges or four-year universities, provided their family earns less than $125,000 a year.”

CNN reports that students have to take 30 credits to qualify.

Students will save a lot of money, but there are still some costs to education.

CNN reports that tuition costs “$6,470 annually at four-year schools and about $4,350 a year at community colleges” in New York, and says that will be waived. However, students will still have to pay “for the cost of fees and room and board if they live on campus. Those other expenses can add up to $14,000 a year,” according to CNN Money.

3. Those Who Receive the Money Must Remain in the State for Some Time

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

New York is trying to ensure that the free tuition does not become a brain drain in which the state’s taxpayers fund college educations of people who then up and leave.

Thus, there’s a provision baked into the bill that requires people to remain in the state for four years if they went to a four-year college and for two if they went to a two-year institution, according to The Post.

KCCI reports that if the recipients leave the state before that time frame, the free tuition converts to a loan.

4. Bernie Sanders Supported the Plan, Which Is Expected to Affect Almost 1 Million Families

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Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Getty)

The New York State website on the plan says it was supported by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The site says the free tuition is expected to help many. “Under this groundbreaking proposal, more than 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year would qualify to attend college tuition-free at all public universities in New York State,” says the site.

5. A Few Other States Have College Tuition Free Programs

New York’s plan is not completely unique, but it is different due to the size of the state and the sweeping nature of the free tuition offer.

In 2014, reports AOL, “Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and quickly implemented a plan to make community college free for recent high-school graduates throughout the state, though a later federal partnership proposed by former President Barack Obama failed. Other states, including Oregon, have their own free community college programs.”

AOL reports that New York is the largest state in the United States to offer free tuition.