NY enacts free middle class college tuition

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NEW YORK — New York will become the first state to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for middle-class students.

The tuition initiative is part of a new state budget approved Sunday by the state Senate, a day after the Assembly approved it.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the tuition plan, which will cost an estimated $163 million.

In-state students whose families earn $125,000 or less will be eligible. Cuomo says the idea is to provide new economic opportunities for New Yorkers by making college more affordable.

The program won’t cover room and board, however, and students must be enrolled full time and maintain sufficient grades and residency requirements.

The initiative will be phased in over three years, with families making $100,000 or less eligible in the fall of 2017, with the threshold rising to $125,000 in 2019. About 940,000 families in the state will meet the income criteria when the program is fully implemented.

The budget also has $19 million for a new tuition award program for students at private colleges.

The $153 billion budget also includes provisions allowing the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft to expand upstate, and raises the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

The budget was due by April 1 but passage was delayed by difficulties in negotiations.