New Partnership between SUNY Empire State College and to Offer “Freshman Year for Free”


During his 2020 State of the State Address, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new partnership between Empire State College, SUNY and to offer a full library of free online college courses and materials for all New Yorkers, at no cost to the state or students. The program provides students an opportunity to earn up to one full year of college credit tuition-free.

In addition to the unlimited free use of the courses and as part of the partnership,, a philanthropy, will also pay the costs for up to 1,000 credit-bearing exams for all students, especially New York veterans and active-duty military families. Students who complete one or more Modern States online college courses and pass a CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exam will earn credit through SUNY Empire State College. The credits earned will be transferable to other SUNY schools. SUNY Empire students will be able to access the Modern States program through a cobranded web portal.

The initiative is included in Governor Cuomo’s 2020 Making Progress Happen agenda.

“SUNY Empire is proud to partner with Modern States in this effort to lower the cost of higher education for New Yorkers,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras. “This partnership offers real savings — for every free course and exam passed, students and their families can save $1,000 to $2,000 in college costs. With Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior scholarship, New York has been leading the way in making college more affordable for all, and this is yet another example of the state’s commitment to making a college degree attainable for anyone who pursues it.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for all SUNY Empire students to take high-quality courses taught by college professors and earn credits without the expenses of a traditional college course,” said Steve Klinsky, founder and CEO of the Modern States charity. “I’m appreciative to Governor Cuomo for having the vision to pursue alternative low cost paths to earning a fully credited college degree, and appreciative to Modern States trustee, Maureen Sherry, for leading Modern States’ partnership effort with New York.”

Modern States offers state-of-the-art courses taught by college professors in all 33 subjects for which there is a credit-bearing CLEP exam from the College Board, the same organization that offers the SAT and AP tests. Available courses include American Government, American Literature and Spanish, among others. The program has more than 180,000 registered users to date, and has paid for approximately 30,000 exams for New Yorkers and students around the world.

SUNY Empire currently offers more than 800 online courses, supported by more than 30 campuses and learning hubs across New York state and the world, and has been helping students pursue their academic goals in a flexible, challenging environment for nearly 50 years.

Launched in August 2017, Modern States Education Alliance is a NYC-based philanthropy dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and accessible for everyone. is readily available online for people of all backgrounds, and enables high schoolers, college students and adult learners to save on tuition while working toward a college degree. Students can take one course or many. The pass rate of students who use to prepare for a CLEP exam is 73 percent, well above the national average. In addition to paying the $89 CLEP exam fee, reimburses students for test center fees, typically $25. More than 2,900 colleges and universities accept CLEP for credit, including major universities such as Ohio State, University of Wisconsin, Penn State, Texas State, Morehouse, and many others.