BUFFALO, NY – NY Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Queen City, as a part of an upstate tour on Tuesday where he extolled the accomplishments made in the just approved New York State Budget.

Though he received many cheers, the loudest ovation at the Dr. Bennett Smith, Sr. Family Life Center surrounded the state’s plan to cover tuition to SUNY colleges starting this fall, for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year, and less than $125,000 starting in 2020.

Beyond being a full time student, and maintaining their grades, eligible students are also expected to stay in New York following their graduation.

Under a proposal by Senate republicans, and agreed to by the governor, students who receive the scholarship must live and work in New York for the same number of years they received funding. If they leave the state, their scholarship will be converted into a loan, which they will then be expected to repay.

"The basic point is that if the taxpayers are going to pay to educate you, you're now an asset to the state and an asset to the state's economy,” Mr. Cuomo told WGRZ-TV. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have taxpayers pay to educate you and then you get up and move to California."

“It doesn't say you can't move out of the state…it says you can move out of the state, but if you do before four years, the grant becomes a loan and you repay the loan. So if you have to move, then move, but repay the taxpayers for what they have invested in you," Cuomo said.

As with many rules, there are exceptions, according to the governor, for hardships, those who go on to the military, or to grad school.

Cuomo added, that requiring those who receive certain forms of tuition assistance from the state to live and work here after they receive their degrees is not unprecedented.

According to the governor’s office, these would include:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Program  -live and work for 5 years
  • Master’s in Education Teacher Incentive Scholarship (live and work for 5 out of 7 years after completing degree/certification
  • Math & Science Teaching Incentive Scholarship (work for 5 out of 7 years after completing degree/certification)
  • McGee Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness (work for 4 out of years)
  • District Attorney Loan Forgiveness (includes a living requirement)
  • Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness
  • McGee Nursing Faculty Loan Forgiveness
  • Regents Physicians Loan Forgiveness
  • The Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program (requires that if you work, you must work in NYS)

Though it's been touted in some circles that New York's Excelsior Scholarship will provide "free" college, in reality, it's not going to be free, even for those who avail themselves of this new form of financial aid.

Tuition (which the program provides to income-eligible families) makes up less than a third of the $20,000 per year that it typically costs to attend a 4-year SUNY College. Room and board is not included in the program, nor are books and fees.

And it certainly won’t be free for the rest of the state's populace, which will pay for the tuition program, or for the parents of students whose families make above the income thresholds, who will be facing annual tuition increases of $200 per year for the next three years as the program is phased in.

However, the Governor insists there will be no new taxes imposed to pay for the program.

“What people don't realize is, that we already have all sorts of tuition assistance programs for people who can't afford college...we will pay for this wholly within the current budget. It's $163 million in a $150 billion budget," Cuomo said.