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State deal close on free public college tuition

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces his proposed

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces his proposed "Excelsior Scholarship" plan for college tuition assistance to eligible students from low- and middle-income families, at LaGuardia Commmunity College in Queens on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — State leaders are near a deal that would provide free public college tuition for many middle class families while also providing more financial aid to students at nonpublic colleges, Sen. Jeff Klein said Wednesday.

Klein said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders are working on “a hybrid of what the governor wants and an expansion of [Tuition Assistance Program] help for kids who want to go to private schools.” The Bronx Democrat, leader of the independent Democratic Conference in the Senate, said leaders are also negotiating a way to reduce student loan debt.

Klein made his comments after a closed-door negotiation with Cuomo and legislative leaders on the $162 billion state budget. An agreement is due by midnight Friday.

In February, Cuomo proposed that the state pay the remainder, or “last dollar,” after exhausting all other forms of state and federal financial aid, such as money from the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, and the federal Pell Grant program.

The $163 million measure is expected to cover tuition cost for thousands of families with household incomes of about $100,000 or less. The State University of New York’s resident tuition is $6,470 at its four-year colleges and $4,350 at its two-year community colleges, but that doesn’t include room, board, fees and books, which add about $15,000 per year.

Advocates for nonpublic schools have argued their students — many of them also coming from lower- and middle-income families — need help through enhanced TAP grants, in part to avoid a drain from the more than 100 private colleges and universities in the state.

“It’s important that New York State continue its tradition of assisting students at the higher education institution of their choice that best fits their education, social and career ends,” said Mary Beth Labate, president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.


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