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Here's what you need to know before getting too excited about New York's free tuition

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Here's what you need to know before getting too excited about New York's free tuition

WATCH  |  New York just logged another first, becoming the only state in the U.S. to offer free tuition for students at two- and four-year public colleges.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday officially inked a plan that provides free tuition at two- and four-year public colleges.

The Excelsior Scholarship, as it's called, aims to give the state's middle-class families a leg up. That said, the program is not without its flaws.

For one, the initial cost to taxpayers? A cool $163 million in the first year.

The plan also only applies to New York families. But, it will help cut the cost of getting a degree for families who earn less than $125,000. 

There is an income cap, but the $1.3 trillion student debt crisis has forced some states, like New York, to revamp their approach to higher education.

Under the plan, families could save nearly $25,000 on four-year degrees at SUNY and CUNY schools. The first year, only families making under $100,000 qualify. That number goes up next year to $110,000. Then, $125,000 in 2019.

Hillary Clinton joined Cuomo at the signing and called it "a great step for progressives."

After lawmakers approved it over the weekend, Cuomo celebrated on Medium and Facebook.

One caveat? The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, which is just over $6,400 annually at four-year schools, according to the New York Times. But students still have to pay for extra expenses like books, housing, fees and food, which could cost another few thousand dollars.

Another catch? Students must maintain full-time status, or risk losing their scholarship. But this could be a problem for some students who go part-time so they can work or help their families.

And perhaps the biggest caveat is that post-graduation, scholarship recipients must stay to live and work in New York for the same time they received funding, or that money turns into a loan they have to pay back.

Per the New York Post, that portion of the bill wasn't part of Cuomo's original plan, but rather added in as an amendment Republicans in the state senate required.

Despite its shortcomings, the plan is innovative and might encourage more students to consider college.

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In this photo provided by the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauds as Gov. Cuomo speaks from the podium at LaGuardia Community College in the Queens borough of New York, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Clinton joined Cuomo on Wednesday for a ceremonial bill signing of the state's new scholarship for poor and middle-class students. (Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP)

The initiative was proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January--tapping into a talking point during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Every child will have the opportunity that education provides.
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“Today, college is what high school was; it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With this program, every child will have the opportunity that education provides.”


If anything, it's a conversation starter.

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