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Many NY students expected to take advantage of tuition-free college

April 11, 2017 GMT

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -

Thousands of New York residents now have the chance to attend college tuition-free.

For some students the cost of college plays a major role in their decision whether to move on to higher education. SUNY Plattsburgh junior Craig Livsey says it wasn’t until after he enrolled that the financial burden began to weigh on him. “Once I went to college for a few semesters and started to realize the tuition and the interest rates on loans--yeah, so later on yes. Initially no, but as I went through college, it definitely did,” he said.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, announced Monday that the state’s 2018 budget approved a new $163 million dollar scholarship program that will allow some New York residents to attend state schools like SUNY Plattsburgh tuition free.

“If we had had this program--I’m not saying we should have--but had this program been in place a year ago, about 1,200 of our current students would have been eligible for it, and I suspect that at least 1,200 or more will be taking advantage of this next year and the years afterwards,” said John Ettling, SUNY Plattsburgh’s President.

The Excelsior Scholarship will be phased in over the course of three years. Starting this fall, New York residents whose families make $100,000 or less per year could be eligible. By 2019 the program will expand to allow students whose families make $125,000 or less.

“I think it’s really interesting. It’s cool to see the state taking initiative, and it feels good as a student to know that actually our needs are being thought about, so it’s pretty interesting to think about,” Livsey said.

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, says he has mixed feelings about the new scholarship. He feels the income requirement should have been raised to a cap of $150,000 per year. “I just thought the guidelines could have been expanded more to capture more people in it. I thought we could have done more work with the tuition assistance program, but we’ll have to see the income, or the net result of it. I hope it works out well,” he said.

The scholarship would only cover the costs of tuition, so room and board, text books and other fees would not be included. Another requirement of the scholarship is that students stay in New York state after they graduate for the same number of years they received the scholarship for. If they choose to move the scholarship would be reversed and turned into a loan that students would have to pay back.