When New York introduced its Excelsior Scholarship program in April 2017, it joined Oregon and Tennessee in providing free tuition for college. Other states are expected to follow, experts say.
However, consumers must read the fine print, so they avoid having to pay for the “free” education, says Allesandra Lanza of American Student Assistance, which provides college-finances advice. (Such programs typically pay only tuition, not fees or room and board, she says.)
For example, New York’s program, which will begin in fall 2017, will provide tuition assistance for all state public 2-year and 4-year colleges to in-state residents who complete at least 30 credits per year and whose families earn less than $100,000 per year during the 2017-2018 academic year.
However, “if you don’t live and work in New York after college, the program converts to a grant,” says Sara Goldrick-Rab, who is a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. If you receive the Excelsior Scholarship for 4 years, for example, you have to live and work in New York for 4 years after you graduate. Otherwise, you’ll have to repay the scholarship.