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New York planning free tuitions for middle class

New York is planning to offer one of the biggest schemes in the world to abolish tuition fees for students.

The US state wish to extend free tuition to middle-class families, as well as the disadvantaged, with young people in almost a million households expected to be eligible.

The scheme will be applicable to It will mean children from families earning up to $125,000 (£101,000) per year will not have to pay fees at public higher education institutions, such as colleges of the State University of New York and City University of New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, announcing the scheme last week, said he wanted to reduce levels of student debt that were like “starting a race with an anchor tied to your leg”.

The New York governor said that 70% of jobs in the state now needed a college education and that tuition fees could not be allowed to remain a barrier.

“What high school was 75 years ago, college is today,” said Mr Cuomo. “College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success.”

Elderly student debtors

The New York proposals will particularly address the anxieties of middle-income families, earning too much to benefit from scholarships for the most deprived, but struggling to afford increased fees.

Tuition fees have risen much more sharply than inflation and student loan debt in the US has outstripped the amount owed on credit cards, standing at $1.3 trillion (£1.07 trillion).

This is not a problem for only the recently graduated.

A report last week from the Office for Older Americans showed that the number of over-60-year-olds still paying back student debt had quadrupled in a decade, with $66.7bn (£55bn) remaining in outstanding loans.

The study raised concerns of elderly people unable to afford repayments being pursued by debt chasers using “aggressive tactics”.

But the financial support in New York will not apply to top private universities, where tuition fees can be in the region of $50,000 (£41,000) per year.

And even though the fees in state universities will be covered, students would still face other costs such as accommodation.

The plans estimate that about 200,000 students can take up the fee offer in New York, from the million families that would be eligible.