State

Cuomo announces his free college plan has support from 17 US representatives from New York

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Cuomo proposed the Excelsior Scholarship during his State of the State addresses, one of which he gave in Syracuse, pictured here.

Seventeen United States congressional leaders have said they support New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for a free public college program in the state.

Cuomo announced the supporters, all members of the New York Democratic Congressional Delegation, on Monday in a press release. Called the Excelsior Scholarship, Cuomo’s plan would make tuition for New York state public colleges free for students whose households earn under $125,000 annually.

“With a college education now a requirement to succeed in the modern workforce, the strength of our economy depends on our ability to help more New Yorkers go to college, and I am proud to have the support of these great New York leaders in our fight to make college tuition free for the middle class,” Cuomo said in the release.

Every Democratic U.S. representative from the state but one — Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) — has expressed support for plan. The group included all three Democratic representatives from upstate New York: Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester), Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) and Paul Tonko (D-Albany), according to the press release.

Cuomo’s team has estimated that approximately 80 percent or more of 940,000 New York families would qualify for this program. The plan would make tuition free at State University of New York and City University of New York colleges and universities for qualified students.

Nearly 1 million families in New York state would qualify for the scholarship, according to the state’s website.

The plan is still pending legislative approval and would cost $163 million in its first year. It is set to roll out in the fall of 2017.

The plan would be phased in over three years. It is slated to begin in 2017 for families making up to $100,000 annually, then increase to $110,000 in 2018 and would be fully implemented by 2019.

The Excelsior Scholarship would only aid students with tuition, not living costs such as room and board, student fees and textbooks. The scholarship would also only supplement existing aid rather than replacing it.

New York students attending four-year public and private colleges and universities graduate with an average of $29,320 in debt, according to the state. Cuomo in a news release earlier this year said he hopes the Excelsior Scholarship “will help alleviate the crushing burden of student debt while enabling thousands of young students to realize their dream of higher education.”

“For struggling families, the affordability of a college education remains a serious challenge. Providing more and better college tuition assistance for middle class families is an important step in our knowledge-based economy,” Higgins, the congressman from Buffalo, said.

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