The state of New York in the United States will soon offer tuition-free higher education to students from lower and middle income families.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recently that the Excelsior Scholarship programme will be open to students studying at two- or four-year public universities in the state who are from families earning less than US$100,000 annually.
He said that 70 percent of jobs in the state currently require a college education and that the state hoped to remove the financial barrier holding back students from disadvantaged backgrounds and reduce levels of student debt, comparing it to “starting a race with an anchor tied to your leg”.
“Society said, ‘We’re going to pay for high school, because you need high school.’ This society should say, ‘We’re going to pay for college because you need college to be successful,'” he said, as quoted by U.S. News.
The proposal has yet to be approved by state lawmakers, but should it be passed, the program will be introduced in phases over a three-year time period from Fall 2017, and will eventually extend to families earning less than US$125,000.
According to government officials, if the programme is given the green light, over 940,000 New York households with college-age children would qualify for the tuition-free scholarship.
The programme is expected to operate alongside the state’s tuition assistance program, which already provides US$1 billion in grants to college students across the state.
The state’s capital, New York City, is one of the most popular cities for students – but it is also among the most expensive.
Besides soaring rents and cost of living, students at state schools are currently paying upwards of US$6,000 for in-state tuition, while students from outside the state pay around $13,200.
However, New York isn’t the first state to promote free education – in 2015, Tennessee became the first state to scrap tuition at community colleges for eligible students.