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Apr 11, 2017 01:14 PM EDT

New York Lawmakers Say Yes To Free College Tuition For Middle Class Students

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On Sunday, the New York's Senate approved a whopping $153 billion budget to provide free college tuition to those who could barely afford it. Now, families whose incomes are less than $100,000 can avail no-fee education at the schools of the State University of New York (SUNY) starting this fall.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the tuition plan in January. He noted that the project will serve as a national model to "improve college affordability." Currently, school payments at this city begin at $6, 470.

How does it work?

Otherwise known as the "Excelsior Scholarship" program, it allows students to enroll in college for free if their parents have below $125,000 income over the next three years. Thus, it will be phased in. This fall, the annual income requirement to avail the scholarship is $100,000. In 2018 and 2019, it will be $110,000 and $125,000 respectively.

Now, per USA Today, when it is already fully phased in, Cuomo estimates that 940,000 people would be able to qualify for the program. All in all, the state has around 64 campuses. Meanwhile, New York has the largest public college system in the nation with 443, 000 students.

On the contrary, those who are not eligible for the scholarship will probably pay more. For one, the lawmakers give the SUNY Board of Trustees the ability to increase tuition for up to $200 a year for three years. They will impose the price hike to students whose parents earn more than the stated tuition threshold.

What happens after graduation?

The Wall Street Journal reported that the beneficiaries of the SUNY's free college tuition program must work in the state after graduation. However, the required years of service are still unclear. These students have another choice, though: pay back their college tuition fees.

Around 32,000 students per year are expected to take the Excelsior Scholarship offer. On the other hand, these individuals need to take 30 credits annually, keep the requisite GPA, and graduate on time. While New York has been the first to make tuition-free college a reality, experts fear that the after-graduation requirement may force students to take underemployment in the city over other jobs elsewhere.

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