QUEENS, NY – Students at Truman High School may one day have a chance at attending any State or City University of New York – and pay a total tuition bill of $0. This, if the Governor’s Excelsior Scholarship Program makes its way through the state legislature.
“It would be perfect,” says Truman Senior Eliza Perez. Perez was one of nine current and former students who attended the governor’s announcement at LaGuardia Community College Tuesday morning. “Because not everyone has enough money to pay the full tuition. It’s going to make it easier for people who really want to go to college – to go to college.”
The program would provide free tuition at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges for any student whose family earns less than $125,000 per year. The Governor’s office is calling Excelsior a “first-in-the-nation” program, although private Ivy-League Stanford University has already implemented a similar scholarship. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – who also called for free public college tuition – also spoke to the crowd of students in support of Cuomo’s plan.
“We need to make certain that every New Yorker, every Vermonter and every American gets all the education they need regardless of family income,” Sanders said.
“It’s a matter of seeing if it is realistic,” according to Truman alum and SUNY Binghamton freshman, Daniel Adlam. “I wouldn’t want to see college-bound or current students like myself get their hopes up high for free tuition, just to be let down because the program isn’t approved (by the legislature).”
“A college education is not a luxury,” Cuomo said in his remarks. “It is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility.”
According to the Governor’s office, under the proposal, over 940,000 middle-class families would qualify for the tuition break. The new initiative 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. The New York Times reports that the program could cost in the neighborhood of $163 million, and it may face a challenge from legislators.