(Adds non-tuition costs would not be covered)
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK Jan 3 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
proposed free tuition at the state's public colleges for
students from low- and middle-income families on Tuesday,
seizing on an idea that became a rallying cry for many Democrats
in last year's presidential election.
Under Cuomo's plan, which he called the first of its kind in
the nation, the state would cover tuition for any student from a
family earning less than $125,000 a year by 2019, a means-tested
benchmark that coincided with one proposed by Hillary Clinton in
her failed presidential bid.
"College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a
success," the Democratic governor said as he announced the plan,
which requires approval by the state's legislature. Cuomo is
widely seen as a potential future presidential candidate.
About 70 percent of jobs in the state now required a college
education, he said. He described graduating with thousands of
dollars of debt as "like a starting a race with an anchor tied
to your leg."
The cost of higher education and the burden of student debt
emerged as a major issue in the race between Clinton and Bernie
Sanders to become the Democratic Party's presidential candidate
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont and a Brooklyn native,
joined Cuomo for the announcement at the LaGuardia Community
College in the New York City borough of Queens, and he
repurposed familiar talking points from his campaign.
"The Democrats and Republicans and independents understand
that technology has changed, the global economy has changed," he
said to a crowd of Queens students who had been chanting his
name minutes earlier. He said a college degree was virtually
mandatory in a way that a high-school diploma had been in
From the start of his presidential campaign in 2015, Sanders
promised to make tuition free for everyone who attends state
colleges. The promise helped draw huge crowds of young people to
his campaign rallies and pressured Clinton, who was promising in
less sweeping terms only to reduce student debt, from the left.
After Clinton had all but secured the party's nomination
last summer, she announced a means-tested variant of the Sanders
plan last July in what was seen in part as a gesture towards
bringing the party's more liberal, left-leaning flank back into
For undergraduate students who hail from New York, tuition
for a bachelor's degree costs $6,470 per year at the State
University of New York's colleges, and $6,330 per year at the
City University of New York's four-year colleges. Other expenses
such as room and board, which can cost up to $12,590 at SUNY
colleges, would not be covered under the plan.
Cuomo said his proposed Excelsior Scholarship would cost
about $163 million a year, although he did not specify how the
state would cover this cost. He said it would potentially
benefit some 940,000 families with college-age children in the
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Andrew Hay)