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Governor Cuomo’s Proposal on Free College Tuition in State Schools Promises Greater Opportunity for Vulnerable Students

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.

On January 3, 2017, Governor Cuomo announced a proposal, the Excelsior Scholarship program, to cover tuition costs at  state schools for middle-and low-income students in New York. Hundreds of thousands of students will be eligible. As Governor Cuomo has recognized, a college education represents a necessity for most to compete in a global economy.

The program only stands as a proposal, as the state legislature must approve it.  Specifically the proposal would apply to participating students enrolled at a SUNY or CUNY two- or four-year college full-time. The initiative will apply to middle class families and individuals making up to $125,000 through a supplemental aid program.    New York State would phase in the program slowly — over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019. Many other details still need to be set forth, but the proposal promises greater opportunity for New Yorkers.

We applaud this initiative as it will benefit students and family who have difficulty affording college and assist many vulnerable students.    Like all colleges receiving federal funds, SUNY and CUNY schools provide accommodations for students with disabilities, and this proposal will help more students with disabilities and learning differences attend college.  SUNY and CUNY schools have particularly strong and innovative programs, such as the College Steps program at Westchester Community College which can offer support for students with autism and other learning differences.

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