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New York Governor Proposes Free College For Lower-Income Students

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) announced a proposal Tuesday to offer tuition-free college to lower-income New Yorkers. His plan mirrors those of last year's Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (left). Mary Altaffer/AP hide caption

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Mary Altaffer/AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) announced a proposal Tuesday to offer tuition-free college to lower-income New Yorkers. His plan mirrors those of last year's Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (left).

Mary Altaffer/AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a proposal to offer free tuition for lower-income New Yorkers attending state-run colleges, an idea embraced by last year's Democratic presidential contenders.

The plan announced Tuesday – called the Excelsior Scholarship – would grant full-rides to students from families earning less than $125,000 a year, as long as they attend one of the state's public two- or four-year colleges.

Speaking at LaGuardia Community College in New York's Queens borough, the Democratic governor said his proposal could allow students from some 940,000 families to attend college, which is key to scoring about 70 percent of jobs in the state, Reuters quotes Cuomo as saying.

"College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success," Cuomo told the crowd.

Joining the governor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cheered the proposal.

"The Democrats and Republicans and independents understand that technology has changed, the global economy has changed," the news service quotes Sanders as saying.

Sanders had offered a similar nationwide proposal while vying for the Democratic presidential nomination last year. While he lost to Hillary Clinton, his proposal resonated enough to find a place on the Democrats' national platform.

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Cuomo's proposal, which would apply only to New York residents, would cost about $163 million annually and be in place by 2019. That's if it passes the state's Legislature, The New York Times reports.

"Mr. Cuomo hopes for a quick start for his idea, with a three-year rollout beginning in the fall, though it will require legislative approval, a potential snag when the governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been at odds over a pay raise and other issues," the Times says.

As it stands currently, tuition at the public State University system is $6,470 a year; a two-year degree runs about $4,350.

The price-tag at the state's other public system, City University, runs roughly the same.

While New York has need-based tuition awards, those tap out at $5,165 per school year.