By Gina Cherelus
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sotiris Charalampous spent the past two years juggling school and work in an effort to save enough money to pay for his college tuition.
However, a new initiative by the state could mean the rest of the sophomore’s education costs him nothing at all, as long as he meets certain requirements.
“I was on the train reading the article and it was just a ‘phew’ moment for me,” Charalampous, who studies biology at the City College of New York (CCNY), said on Tuesday, referring to the launch of the new program.
The Excelsior Scholarship is a first-in-the-nation plan that will let New York residents whose families makes up to $125,000 per year attend the state’s public colleges and universities for free.
In what was seen as a nod to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in January proposed offering free tuition to students from low- and middle-income families.
Sanders had promised during his campaign last year to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate that he would make tuition free for everyone who attends state college in the United States.
The scholarship, which begins this fall, also allocates $8 million to pay for resources such as e-books for students, the governor’s office has said.
Eligible students must be enrolled in college full-time and maintain a healthy grade point average. After graduating, they will also have to live and work in the state for the same number of years as they received the scholarship.
“College was a worry for me,” said Samiyah Ali, an incoming freshman at CCNY. “So I think it’s a great opportunity. It makes college available for a lot of people that weren’t able to go.”
CCNY’s interim president, Vincent Boudreau, praised the importance given to education in the state’s budget.
“You can’t put a price tag on it,” he said. “It’s just earth-shattering for us.”
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)