Michael Contegni/Staff Photographer Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at Binghamton University on Tues., Feb. 7 to promote his executive budget proposal. During the talk, Cuomo announced his plan to make public schools in New York tuition free for middle-class families.

On April 7, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the passage of the FY 2018 State Budget. The budget includes the introduction of the Excelsior Scholarship, which will provide tuition-free public college for families in New York State making up to $125,000.

According to the Governor’s press release, the program will be rolled out over three years; it will begin with New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in Fall 2017, $110,000 in 2018 and finally increase to $125,000 in 2019. Almost 940,000 New Yorkers will be eligible for the program, which will be applicable at all SUNY and CUNY schools.

“”This Budget enacts the Middle Class Recovery Act to continue the Empire State’s upward trajectory and creates a path forward for those striving to get ahead,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By making college at our world-class public universities tuition-free, we have established a national model for access to higher education, and achieved another New York first.”

Students entering Binghamton University who are eligible will benefit from the scholarship. BU President Harvey Stenger said in a statement that the University will now be an option for more New Yorkers looking to go to college.

“Governor Cuomo has been a longtime friend of SUNY schools in New York State, and Binghamton University is no exception. The Governor’s attentiveness and support for New York’s students has been undeniable and with the inclusion of the Excelsior Scholarship in this year’s state budget, we have opened up endless opportunity for our middle class families,” Stenger said.

Program participants must be enrolled as full-times students averaging at least 30-credits annually, but allows flexibility in pausing education “due to hardship.” Students must also maintain a certain grade point average, and are required to live and work in New York state for the number of years it takes to complete their degree.

The budget also includes maintenance costs to benefit CUNY and SUNY schools, and will also invest $8 million to provide “educational resources” such as textbooks and electronic-books to students at the schools. The scholarship will also extend the state’s existing aid programs, and “fills in any remaining gaps” of tuition costs.

Ultimately, Stenger thanked the Governor for the opportunity to attract a wider range of New Yorkers to attend BU.

“By removing the burden of tuition for families making $125,000 or less, we can attract more talented, qualified students to our campuses who may have been discouraged by the rising costs of attending college,” Stenger said. “I thank the Governor for being a champion for affordable education in New York State.”