This story has been updated to reflect the latest news about the bill.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) proposed a plan in January that would eliminate tuition for many students attending public colleges in his state. Now, Cuomo and state legislators say they've reached a deal to enact the plan. The EAB Daily Briefing team rounds up the key details below.
Who would qualify
- Tuition would be free for students whose families earn an annual income of $125,000 or less.
- Only students attending institutions within the City University of New York or the State University of New York systems would qualify.
- Students may attend either two-year or four-year institutions.
- Up to 940,000 households in the state would qualify, based on an estimate from the governor's office.
- Students would be required to work or live in the state after graduation for the same number of years they received tuition benefits.
How the plan would be implemented
- The state would phase in the program over three years, starting in fall 2017 with a family income cap of $100,000.
- The proposal would cost the state an additional $163 million annually, according to some estimates. Currently, the state spends nearly $1 billion annually on its Tuition Assistance Program.
What colleges should know
- Students eligible for a free tuition program in Kalamazoo, Michigan are about 33% more likely to graduate from college, as well as 14% more likely to enroll in college and 34% more likely to attend a four-year institution, according to a study from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- A similar program in Tennessee attracted applications from 90% of the state's high school seniors in its first year.
- Some experts say the plan will increase enrollment, but others argue Cuomo's proposal doesn't offer anything new to the lowest-income students. For example, between state and federal aid, students from families who earn less than $30,000 already receive free tuition at the State University of New York in Albany, according to Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.
- More than 150 programs across the country offer some form of tuition-free community college.
How Georgia State University graduates record numbers of minority students
What people are saying
- There are rumors that Cuomo has plans to run for president in the future, and some say the proposal could be part of his effort to prepare for that goal.
- Many commentators pointed out that New York's public colleges already have some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.
- Some New York education leaders expressed support for the proposal, but others wondered if the funds might be better spent on improving graduation rates in the state.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who proposed a plan for nationwide free tuition during his recent presidential campaign, predicts that other states might follow New York's example with free tuition plans of their own.
(West/Korn, Wall Street Journal, 1/3; McKinley, New York Times, 1/3; Chingos, Washington Post, 1/4; Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, 1/3; Seltzer, Inside Higher Ed, 1/4).
How free tuition programs are playing out in three states
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