Education Tech | April 15, 2017

Free college tuition comes to New York, with strings

The team at


A year after Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders floated proposals for free college education nationwide in last year’s presidential campaign, New York will become the first state to offer a tuition-free four-year education (Tennessee and Oregon offer free two-year community college degrees).

Starting this fall, high school graduates from low- and middle-income families will be eligible for “Excelsior Scholarships” for two- and four-year higher-ed.

There are plenty of caveats: the scholarships are “last dollar” funding, meaning students have to max out other state and federal grants first. Students cannot take a break after high school. They must be enrolled full-time. They must commit to working in New York for one year for each year of financial support. The scholarships cover only tuition, not room, board and books, which can easily exceed tuition costs.

Columnist David Brooks took the plan to task in Friday’s New York Times, calling the plan “regressive” for not doing more for the poor and covering non-tuition expense. He also said the plan will “demotivate” students and “threaten” New York’s private colleges.

Still, the move has been touted as a step towards tackling the U.S.’s $1.3 trillion multigenerational student debt problem.

This post originally appeared in ImpactAlpha’s daily newsletter. Get The Brief.

Photo credit: Office of Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York