As part of a budget package approved Sunday night, the Excelsior Scholarship program will be rolled out over the next three years. The program will provide four-year college tuition for students whose families make less than $100,000 per-year, according to an NBC News report.
The threshold for qualification will increase to $110,000 next year and to $125,000 in 2019.
While some states already have grant and scholarship programs, New York is the first to offer such a comprehensive program with no requirements other than residency and income–with no caps on how many residents can get free tuition.
“With this budget, New York has the nation’s first accessible college program. It’s a different model,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday in a statement. “Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it.”
Around 80 percent of the state’s estimated 940,000 college-age kids could use the program. Adults entering college for the first time are also eligible.
The program does not address the cost of housing, food and transportation, according to New York Assemblyman Victor M. Pichardo. He said, “This program does nothing to address the needs of countless low-income students and will only end up impacting a small percentage of CUNY students.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oregon, Tennessee and Minnesota currently have programs in place to cover two-year college tuition for qualifying residents.
To qualify for New York residency, an emancipated individual must reside in the state for more than twelve months.