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At LaGuardia Community College, Cuomo and Bernie Sanders announce plan to make college free

Jan. 3, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a new proposal this morning at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City that would make SUNY and CUNY college tuition free to all middle class families.

Cuomo announced the new Excelsior Scholarship program, which would make tuition free to families making less than $125,000 per year, alongside U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an outspoken supporter of free public education.

“A college education is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility, and with these first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarships, we’re providing the opportunity for New Yorkers to succeed, no matter what zip code they come from and without the anchor of student debt weighing them down,” Cuomo said.

According to the governor, 80 percent of families in New York make under $125,000 each year and about 940,000 households having college-aged children that would be eligible for the new Excelsior Scholarship program.

Cuomo plans to institute the program in stages, beginning by offering it to families making up to $100,000 starting in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019.

“New York is making a major investment in our greatest asset – our people – and supporting the dreams and ambitions of those who want a better life and are willing to work hard for it,” Cuomo said.

Costing about $163 million once phased in, Cuomo said The Excelsior program would not only alleviate debt but also encourage students to graduate on time.

According to the Governor’s office, only 38.7 percent of four-year students and 8.5 percent of two-year students graduated on time, which caused students to fall even further in to debt, with annual tuition ranging from $6,470-$6,330 at SUNY and CUNY for a bachelor’s degree and $4,350-$4,800 for an associate’s degree.

The new scholarship would require students to be enrolled full time, so it would increase the graduation rates at state schools.

The program would work by supplementing existing aid initiatives. Students would still receive the existing state Tuition Assistance Program and any other federal grants they were eligible for, but the Excelsior program would cover the remainder of the tuition cost.

“If the United States is to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce in the world. With exploding technology, and with most of the good paying jobs requiring more and more education, we need to make certain that every New Yorker, every Vermonter and every American gets all the education they need regardless of family income,” Sanders said.

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