Free Tuition? Tennessee Could Tutor New York

In Education, States On

Her journey is an increasingly familiar one in Tennessee, and one that a growing number of states are trying to replicate with programs that pay tuition, usually at the community college level, for a broad number of students.

Oregon started its program last fall, Arkansas and Kentucky are developing initiatives, and Rhode Island has proposed one. New York, in April, became the first state to offer free tuition at all public two-year and four-year institutions, with an income cap that will climb to $125,000 over three years.

The New York version, called the Excelsior Scholarship, is the centerpiece of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s middle-class agenda to make college more accessible and affordable, which was enacted by the Legislature in April.

In Tennessee, where Ms. Riel and other members of Tennessee’s first cohort of scholarship recipients graduate this spring, community college enrollment numbers are up by a third, while the amount that students are having to borrow from the federal government is down, though it is unclear what effect the money is having on on-time graduation, a key goal of the New York plan.

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