New York may become the largest state to offer free public college this year


A $163 billion budget agreement could result in New York becoming the largest state to offer free tuition at all public colleges and universities, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

The idea, first proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would cover the full cost of in-state tuition at public community colleges or universities for New Yorkers with a combined family income of less than $125,000 annually. That covers the vast majority of the state, which has a median household income of just under $61,000.

"Today, college is what high school was — it should always be an option even if you can't afford it," Cuomo said in a statement. "With this program, every child will have the opportunity that education provides."

16 PHOTOS
Public colleges with the biggest ROI
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Public colleges with the biggest ROI

#15: University of California-Davis

20-year ROI: $514K

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#14: The College of New Jersey

20-year ROI: $516K

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#13: University of Washington

20-year ROI: $540K

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#12: James Madison University

20-year ROI: $544K

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#11: University of California-Los Angeles

20-year ROI: $555K

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#10: Rutgers University

20-year ROI: $558K

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#9: University of Maryland-College Park

20-year ROI: $560K

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#8: University of Texas

20-year ROI: $571K

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#7: SUNY-Binghamton University

20-year ROI: $604K

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#6: University of Virginia

20-year ROI: $612K

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#5: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

20-year ROI: $619K

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#4: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)

20-year ROI: $633K

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#3: University of California-San Diego

20-year ROI: $643K

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#2: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

20-year ROI: $667K

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#1: University of California-Berkeley

20-year ROI: $806K

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The scholarship program will begin covering state residents with an annual household income of $100,000 or less in the fall of 2017; the limit will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and to $125,000 in 2019. The state will step in to cover tuition costs for full-time students who take at least 30 credits a year and for whom federal Pell Grants and New York's Tuition Assistance Program have been maximized, according to the WashingtonPost. It does not cover additional expenses like textbooks or room and board.

As the Chronicle of Higher Education noted, some advocates have called the plan "the nation's first free-tuition program for middle-class families." In 2014, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and quickly implemented a plan to make community college free for recent high-school graduates throughout the state, though a later federal partnership proposed by former President Barack Obama failed. Other states, including Oregon, have their own free community college programs.

According to the Associated Press, the New York state Senate will be voting on the budget Sunday evening, though a final vote is not expected until after midnight.

Cuomo's plan closely mirrors Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign proposal to provide full funding for public college and university students nationwide. When Cuomo first proposed the plan in January, Sanders was at his side, calling the idea "revolutionary."

11 PHOTOS
Top 10 best public colleges in America
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Top 10 best public colleges in America

10. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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9. University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

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8. University of Washington at Seattle

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7. University of Texas at Austin

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6. University of California at San Francisco

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5. University of Wisconsin at Madison

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4. University of California at San Diego

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3. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

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2. University of California at Los Angeles

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1. University of California at Berkeley

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