The latest idea to come out of Albany is the Excelsior Scholarship--free college for anyone whose income is less than $100,000 per year, to increase to $125,000 by 2019. Sounds like an ideal benefit--proof of New York's growing commitment to middle-class families.
It looks good on paper anyway.
The Excelsior Scholarship is little more than a raised cap on New York State TAP grants, with a catch. The scholarship only covers up to $5,500 per year--which is not the full cost of CUNY tuition. If you receive any other aid, the scholarship will only provide funds to bring the total to $5,500. You have to work in New York state after graduation for as many years as you received the grant (which makes sense--it is taxpayer funded). Recipients must earn 30 credits per year--a hardship for working students. Also, the grant only covers four years, and is not offered to people with bachelor's degrees. Since degree holders are not eligible for federal aid or TAP grants, this would have provided much needed assistance to people trying to enhance their skills to keep up with a changing world.
This provides some assistance, but not much. This is designed for people taking a traditional route through school--but state schools have a number of non-traditional students. Students who are taking fewer classes to go to school around a job. Students getting second bachelor's degrees because, whoopsie, the world changed; the economy's in the toilet, and that B.A. in liberal arts that was supposed to provide a decent living doesn't, and why didn't you get a degree in STEM you idiot. Students who are taking more challenging degrees that take five and six years to complete. Students changing majors because that math degree is harder than we thought. Students taking a semester off because life happens and I got meningitis and couldn't finish the term. And guess what? All of them could use the grant, and almost none of them qualify for it.