New York to make state college tuition free for middle class

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announces that the legislature and executive branch have come to an agreement on the 2017-18 state budget. (Photo: Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

New York will be the first state to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students under a state budget approved by lawmakers Sunday.

The plan crafted by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will apply to any New York student whose family has an annual income of $125,000 or less. To qualify the student would have to meet certain class load and grade point average restrictions, and room and board would not be covered.

“College is today what high school was 50 years ago,” Cuomo said on a radio interview Sunday on AM 970 in New York City. “If you’re a young person who wants success and a career, a college education is necessary.”

The initiative is included in a $153 billion state budget proposal that passed the state Senate late Sunday after being endorsed by the Assembly a day earlier. The budget was due by April 1, but difficult negotiations delayed passage.

The tuition plan will be phased in over three years, with families making $100,000 or less annually eligible in the fall of 2017, with the threshold rising to $125,000 in 2019. Cuomo’s office says some 940,000 families will qualify. The initiative also includes $19 million for a new tuition award program for students at private colleges.

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