While some institutions, including the City College of San Francisco, have already implemented free tuition for two-year degrees, New York recently became the first state in America to offer a free four-year bachelor’s degree.
According to Huffington Post, the New York program, the Excelsior Scholarship, will “cover tuition for any New Yorkers whose families earn less than $125,000 a year and who are accepted to one of the state’s public community colleges or public four-year universities- which cost approximately between $4,350 and $6,470 annually.”
The scholarship could potentially apply to around 80 percent of families in New York with college-age kids. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first proposed this program and Senator Bernie Sanders championed the idea of extending free community college to four-year degree programs.
There are stipulations, according to the bill. If Excelsior Scholarship students live on campus, they would still be responsible for the cost of room and board. Students would need to take 30 credits per year to maintain the scholarship. Cuomo did say that the “credit requirement is ‘flexible’ so that any student facing hardship will be able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits one semester than another.”
Another stipulation: people who receive the scholarship must live and work in New York after graduation for the same number of years that they received the scholarship. The scholarship would change into a loan if a recipient decided to move out of state.
Is the United States moving towards a more European type of higher education? New York may be the first state in America to offer a free four-year degree, but Europe has been doing it for years.
For example, CNN explains that Germany even offers free tuition to international students. The Czech Republic also offers free tuition, but students have to “study in the local language.” Czech students who remain at a college too long, i.e, about a year over the average length of the degree they are pursuing, would be required to start paying tuition. France technically charges students, but only about the equivalent of $212 annually and students don’t really view this as tuition.
Free tuition could be the difference between a student opting in to college or not. Andrew Cuomo’s goal is to make college just like high school: “…it should always be an option, even if you can’t afford it.”