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Cuomo Unveils Proposal for Free College Tuition

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the announcement. (GovernorAndrewCuomo/Flickr)
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the announcement. (GovernorAndrewCuomo/Flickr)
January 4, 2017

NEW YORK – Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants college to be tuition-free for low- and middle-income New York families.

The governor's proposal, which he calls the Excelsior Scholarship, would supplement existing state and federal tuition assistance programs to make attendance at any state or city two- or four-year college tuition-free for families earning up to $125,000 a year.

Unveiling the plan at LaGuardia Community College in Queens on Tuesday, Cuomo said funding college education is no longer just an option.

"The way this society said, 'We're going to pay for high school because you need high school,' this society should say, 'We're going to pay for college because you need college to be successful,'" he said.

While praising the initiative, some critics point out that the governor has yet to fully fund K-12 education in the state.

According to Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, New York isn't meeting the requirements of its own Foundation Aid Formula.

"Schools are owed $4.3 billion, and students aren't getting what they need in order to be ready for college," he explained. "And that needs to happen along with free tuition."

And Easton noted that three years after proposing universal full-day Pre-K, most four-year-olds outside of New York City have been left out due to lack of funding.

If approved by the state Legislature, Cuomo's college tuition plan would be the first of its kind in the nation. Joining the governor for the announcement, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., predicted New York could set a new standard.

"If New York State does it this year, mark my words, state after state will follow," said Sanders.

The governor's office said when fully implemented, the plan would cost $163 million a year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY