SUNY, CUNY & The Free Tuition - what you should know

Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced the free tuition plan back in January 2017. As of recent, congress has signed off on this plan, thus making tuition for middle-class students attending CUNY or SUNY schools free. This is now included in the New York State budget. As of Fall 2017, the highly anticipated plan will be set in motion.

This plan is called the Excelsior Scholarship. This scholarship will cover the costs of students tuition only, thus leaving room and board as their only expense. The cost of college classes at SUNY's is approximately $7,000 while at CUNY's it is $5,000.

For the first year, the income of the student's family must be under $100,000 a year in order to be considered. This income cap will raise within three years, so by 2019, the families must be making under approximately $125,000. There is also no household limitation on this scholarship. The amount of people living in the home does not have any effect on who receives the scholarship. It is strictly financial based.

It sounds too good to be true right? What's the catch?

Well, for starters, students who receive this scholarship must be taking 30 credits a year. What about those who are enrolled part time? Sadly, they technically would not be eligible but Gov. Cuomo claims that the credits are a "flexibility". Another "catch" is that cost wise, the office of Gov. Cuomo expects it to be about $163 million. An estimate of 200,000 students would be eligible. There's way more students enrolled in these SUNY and CUNY's who need this scholarship and may not even be able to receive it. Students who receive Pell grants or New York Tuition Assistance grants will also be ineligible for this scholarship. Cuomo's office claims that it will fill the gap for those students who don't receive as much in grant or funding money. Another "catch" is that students who do receive this scholarship must live in and work in New York for the same amount of years in which they have received the scholarship. If they do end up leaving New York State before their expected time, the scholarship funding will then turn into a loan and they will be expected to pay it back.

What about the graduates? This scholarship will not help those who have graduated, however, the New York State has orchestrated a program entitled "Get on your Feet". This program will pay for up to two years of federal student loans for those who have graduated since December 2014, as long as their income is under $50,000 and they have received an undergraduate degree within New York State educational systems.

What about private institutions? There's a budget being set into place of about $19 million to aid those attending private institutions whose families make under a certain income cap. Those students will only be eligible to receive up to $3,000, as the budget can only cover that much. Participating colleges would also have to match that of what the New York State provides for the student as well as agree to not raising said student's tuition for their remaining years in the institution.


"I personally feel as though this plan was well needed, especially for myself coming from a single parent household. My mother handles all of the finances in relation to my education and I know how much she struggles sometimes. Knowing that she doesn't have to worry about paying for my classes now is just something I can relax about" - a.c

"I'm happy with it, but I have to be alright with the catch... there's always a catch" - a.m

"It's about time. I just want for people to really understand the terms of it." - c.p

Ayanna currently attends the University at Albany, SUNY. She has a major in English and a double minor in Sociology and Africana studies. She's a firm believer in positivity, self-love and working towards her dreams. She's all about positive vibes and positive energy. You can follow her on Twitter & Instagram @ayannaSZN. 

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