New York State Promises Tuition-Free College, But There’s a Catch

HUNTER COLLEGE–This month, graduating high school seniors throughout New York State will receive personalized letters inviting them to pursue a college degree at their local public college. Those in New York City will be encouraged to apply to the City University of New York (CUNY), while those living outside the city will receive a confirmation of their automatic acceptance into a local community college within the State University of New York (SUNY), where they may start attending this fall. High school seniors will also be assisted with applying for federal and state government financial aid.

This initiative is part of Governor Kathy Hochul’s effort to make higher education accessible to students of all backgrounds by eliminating barriers to pursuing a degree. Despite these efforts, a significant barrier that remains is the cost of pursuing a degree.

Six years ago, former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced to an energized crowd, packed into the auditorium of Laguardia Community College, that any state resident who comes from a family with an annual income of $125,000 or less would be able to attend any two- or four-year public college tuition-free with the newly-founded Excelsior Scholarship.

The crowd erupted, showering Cuomo with applause and cheers. Alongside him sat the U.S. senator of Vermont and two-time presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a known advocate for nationwide free college and the elimination of student debt.