Coalition Responds to Governor Cuomo’s Proposal to Make College Tuition-Free for New York’s Working Families

January 3rd, 2017

Today, Governor Cuomo unveiled the first proposal from his 2017 agenda, a plan to make college tuition-free for New York’s working families at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges. The Governor’s office announced that the tuition-free college degree program, called the “Excelsior Scholarship,” will be eligible to individuals making up to $125,000 per year.

The following is a statement from Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition:

"Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make college tuition-free for New York's working families is a strong step in the right direction. With state and city tuition costs on the rise, fewer low and middle-income New Yorkers – including the estimated 600,000 immigrants enrolled in our schools - can afford the costs of a college education. Proposals like these demonstrate that New York State can be leader when it comes to expanding opportunity for its residents.

“But the Governor should set the bar higher - and ensure that all of New York’s immigrant families and students are included in this proposal, including undocumented New Yorkers. Many of the over 8,300 undocumented students in CUNY and SUNY schools* – New Yorkers, graduates of our high schools who seek higher education - are shut out of their college dreams simply because of financial barriers due to immigration status. Thousands more do not even attempt to access a college education because of these affordability barriers. We call on Governor Cuomo to ensure that this initiative breaks down these barriers for New York’s undocumented students as well.

“The Governor’s proposal provides an important opportunity to be truly inclusive, and cover all New Yorkers with college dreams, regardless of immigration status. We will work with the Governor, the Legislature and all of our allies to make this a reality and pave the path to success for all of New York's talented and deserving students.”

*According to the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s January 2014 report on The New York State DREAM Act, 8,300 undocumented students attend institutions of higher education in New York.


The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.