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Moises Urena’s college loans from the University of Albany add up to $7,000 annually. That’s nearly half the salary his mother, Lina Beltre, earns each year. Beltre is on her fourth college, this time aiming for a bachelor’s degree. She might finally graduate this year, but she’ll owe thousands of dollars, too. She’s fought homelessness and debt for years.

Students like Moises and Lina seem like prime candidates for the Excelsior Scholarship, a plan that was passed by the New York legislature earlier this month and would make college tuition-free at state schools in New York. Students whose families earn less than $125,000 would qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship, which would cost an estimated $163 million annually by 2019, when it fully phases in.

But the plan is explicitly designed to help middle-income students. Experts say that’s a problem, because those students are not the ones who are least likely to go to college and most in danger of dropping out once they get there. Urena and Beltre, for example, wouldn’t be eligible due to certain stipulations of the plan. As designed, experts and educators say the New York scholarship is unlikely to help the state increase its 60 percent college graduation rate.

As part of The Hechinger Report’s new partnership with APM Reports, the national documentary and investigative unit of American Public Media, Hechinger’s Executive Editor Sarah Garland explains how the state’s new plan will leave out the neediest students on this week’s episode of the Educate podcast.

Subscribe to Educate now via iTunes or RadioPublic to automatically get new episodes, which will regularly feature Hechinger’s reporters and editors, when they are released.

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