Governor calls for free tuition at New York public colleges

January 03, 2017 07:51 PM

Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to introduce a proposal to make SUNY tuition free for most students. 

They'll qualify If their family earns less than $125,000 a year.

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Right now, the average Capital Region student debt is over $30,000. Plus students could be paying upwards of six percent interest. The government makes billions of dollars off that.  However, if this proposal goes through that tuition bill for future students could be zero.

With the help of former presidential candidate Sanders, Cuomo unveiled the plan at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.

"The truth is if you want to offer everybody a fair shot. Then you have to get up today and say what high school was 75 years ago, college is today," proclaimed the governor.

WEB EXTRA: Gov. Cuomo on free SUNY tuition proposal

The proposal would make all SUNY and CUNY two-year and four-year schools tuition-free for families and individuals making under $125,000 a year. That's 80 percent of New York households and almost 1 million college-aged students. Existing and incoming students would be eligible.

The program would be rolled in over three years, building up to the $125,000 cut off.

Sanders made free tuition a key point in his run for president.

"Here's my prediction. If New York State does it this year, mark my words, state after state will follow," predicted Sanders.

WEB EXTRA: Sen. Sanders on free SUNY tuition proposal

Cuomo's office says the plan would cost $163 million yearly once fully phased in. The plan is to use the already existing Tuition Assistance Program and cover the rest with state funds.

It's exciting for seniors at Watervliet High School.

"Would you rather go to a SUNY school? It’s going to cost less money and it’s almost the same education? I think I would," noted Brianna Johnson a Watervliet senior.

However, some are waiting for more details. 

"Before giving away some of that money to higher education, let's make sure our students have the foundation they need before they leave high school to be college and career ready," suggested Watervliet Superintendent Dr. Lori Caplan.


WNYT Staff

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