New York will become the first state to offer universal free four-year college to students living in the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
The program, known as the Excelsior Scholarship, will begin by offering a full scholarship to students with a family income of under $100,000 a year. This income cap will be gradually raised to $125,000 over the next three years, according to NBC News.
The scholarship is included as part of the new state budget package approved by New York Governor Cuomo and the New York State Assembly on Sunday night. It is in line with a greater initiative by New York state and Cuomo to improve higher education throughout the state. Higher education will receive a 6.3 percent increase in funding throughout next fiscal year, according to NBC.
"With this budget, New York has the nation's first accessible college program. It's a different model," Cuomo said in a press release. "Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can't afford it."
While there is no age cap for the Excelsior Scholarship, students must be enrolled full-time, have an average of at least 30 credits per year and meet their academic program’s minimum GPA requirement, USA Today reported. The newspaper also reported that if a student enrolls in a five-year program, that student will need to live and work in the state following graduation for the same number of years as they received the money.
According to the governor’s statement, nearly 75.7 percent of families with college-aged children across the state will qualify for tuition-free enrollment at a State University of New York or City University of New York school. Students will be able to know whether they are eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship when they fill out forms for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.