US Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont joined New York Gov Andrew Cuomo earlier this year to announce Cuomo39s proposal for free college tuition

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year to announce Cuomo's proposal for free college tuition.

New York state approves plan for free college tuition

940,000 middle-class and poor families would qualify for free tuition at state colleges and universities.

New York lawmakers have approved a budget that will make the state the first to have free tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students.

The Excelsior Scholarship plan crafted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will apply to any New York student whose family has an annual income of $125,000 or less. To qualify, the student would have to meet certain class load and grade point average restrictions, and room and board would not be covered.

"The Excelsior Scholarship will make college accessible to thousands of working and middle class students and shows the difference that government can make," Cuomo says. "There is no child who will go to sleep tonight and say, I have great dreams, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get a college education because parents can’t afford it. With this program, every child will have the opportunity that education provides.”

The initiative is included in a $153 billion state budget proposal that passed the state Senate.

The tuition plan will be phased in over three years. Families making $100,000 or less annually will be eligible in the fall of 2017, and the threshold will rise to $125,000 in 2019.

About 940,000 families will qualify for free tuition at all City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) two- and four-year colleges in New York State. The initiative also includes $19 million for a tuition award program for students at private colleges.

The governor’s office estimates that the program will cost the state $163 million.

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