Bernie Sanders on Tuesday announced a plan to offer free tuition at state colleges to middle-and low-income New Yorkers.
If Cuomo succeeds, NY could be the first state to make tuition free at all public colleges and universities.
Under the leadership of Gov Cuomo, New York has also recently lead the way in raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, marriage equality, and gun safety laws.
With the Excelsior Scholarship program, Cuomo is building off one of the issues that made Sanders a popular candidate during the 2016 presidential campaign. Though the New York State legislature still needs to approve the proposal, the governor intends to roll it out later this year before putting it into full effect by 2019.
From the start of his presidential campaign in 2015, Sanders promised to make tuition free for everyone who attends state colleges. In-state tuition in NY now ranges from around $4,300 to $6,500 a year. 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.
The proposal includes two-year state and city community colleges and four-year State University of New York (SUNY) schools, as well as City University of New York (CUNY) institutions. Costs for City University of NY schools are about the same.
There were various free tuition proposals introduced by lawmakers during the last legislative session, but they went nowhere. Kenneth LaValle, who has worked to expand a program offering tuition assistance to public college and university students. Almost a million families would qualify.
NY has the nation's largest public university system, with 440,000 students spread among 64 campuses across the state. In the current economy, "you need a college education, if you're going to compete".
"This is an idea that is not only going to reverberate throughout the state of NY, but throughout the country", Sanders said. Students would still be able to collect funding from this program and any additional loan programs under the new program. The governor also has plans for a $650 million investment to boost life sciences research in NY.
"College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success", Cuomo said during the press conference.
Sanders, whose bid for the Democratic nomination Cuomo opposed, reminded the crowd that President-elect Donald Trump "thinks it's a great idea to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top two-tenths of 1 percent".
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