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Gov. Cuomo, Bernie Sanders unveil free college tuition plan for New Yorkers

Gov. Cuomo, Bernie Sanders unveil free college tuition plan for New Yorkers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to offer free tuition at NY public colleges to eligible residents.

It is not clear whether Cuomo's plan will be approved by the legislature, which has been arguing over a pay raise and other financial issues, according to the New York Times.

The plan would center around the Excelsior Scholarship, a new program that would essentially fill the gap between current state subsidies and the cost of tuition at NY public colleges.

NY would phase the new initiative in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019.

Cuomo rolled out his proposal at an event Tuesday at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Additional state funds would cover the remaining tuition costs for incoming or existing eligible students.

The plan would potentially benefit some 940,000 families with college-age children in the state, according to Cuomo, who also said it would cost the state up to about US$163 million a year.

Cuomo says the Excelsior Scholarship program will ensure that students statewide, regardless of their socio-economic status, have the opportunity to receive a quality education and gain the skills they need to succeed in our global economy. "The way we did on raising minimum wage, the way we did on paid family leaving, the way we did on passing marriage equality, the way we did on gun safety and it should be a wakeup call to this nation", said Cuomo.

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Sanders, who was on hand for Cuomo's announcement Tuesday, said NY could galvanize other states to cover tuition for residents if the scholarship proposal is approved.

Introducing the former Democratic presidential candidate who had inspired the tuition-free college proposal, Cuomo thanked Sanders for his vision and dedication to the cause. Cuomo earned criticism in the last weeks of 2016 for deciding to reveal his 2017 agenda in stages across the state, instead of presenting it to lawmakers in Albany.

Although momentum for debt-free college has been building for years, Sen. But in the wake of their defeat, many noted that the best hope for moving the idea forward would be through state and local leaders. But paying for such an education has at the same time become much more hard, due to high tuition costs and lingering student debt, he said.

About 70 percent of jobs in the state now required a college education, he said.

The governor said that in 2015, the average student loan debt in NY was $29,320. But this evidence hasn't stopped one governor from wanting to offer free tuition for public universities.

"We think New York's proposal is great and just the next domino to fall that behind this idea", he said. Undergraduates would still be required, however, to pay room and board, which can reach above $14,000 at the state's flagship, SUNY Binghamton. Almost a million families would qualify.

"It is basically insane to tell the young people of this country we want you to go out and get the best education you can, we want you to get the jobs of the future, oh, but by the way, after you leave school, you are going to be $30,000; $50,000; $100,000 in debt", Sander said.


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