New York lawmakers approve free middle class college tuition

For some students the cost of college plays a major role in their decision whether to move on to higher education.

NY is set to become the first USA state to make tuition free for students at public state universities and community colleges if they come from low- and middle-income families, a proposal that has been endorsed by former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, who promised free college education for all during his campaign. "If you don't want to stay here, then go to California now, let them pay for your college education", Cuomo told state editorial writers. That means NY will be the first state to put a policy into action that grants free tuition assistance to students.

Under a plan first introduced in January by Gov. Cuomo said it will "change lives" and will help the state's workforce. Additionally - a last-minute stipulation added to the bill - they need to stay in-state to live and work for as many years as they are enrolled in college with the program, which covers up to 5 years.

"It is not a luxury, it is a necessity", Cuomo said. "It's an idea that's going to reverberate not only throughout the State of NY but throughout this country".

Free tuition will save NY college students a bundle: upwards of $6,300 per year at the four-year schools, and $4,300 in New York's community colleges. Per The Washington Post, New York is slated to offer tuition-free public higher education.

Under terms of the deal, the program would be phased in over three years.

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Cuomo, right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Beginning fall 2017, the scholarship will become available for NY natives obtaining $100,000 annually, and will eventually increase to $125,000 by 2019, making almost 1 million families eligible.

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, which is now $6,470 annually at four-year schools and about $4,350 a year at community colleges. That cap will lift to $110,000 the next year and ultimately reach up to $125,000 in 2019. The budget put aside $163 million dollars to pay for tuition at the state's public universities for all families earning less than $125,000 a year.

While the Excelsior Scholarship will cover tuition costs, there are other educational costs that families will still need to cover. Such students will not need to pay back the "free" tuition as long as they return to NY after completing their studies.

Here's how NY plans to make it happen. To avoid paying back loans, students must stay in NY for the same amount of time they received free tuition in college. If they fail to complete this part of the program, the grants will convert into student loans.

But not everyone will benefit from the new Excelsior Scholarship.