New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday an innovative plan to provide free tuition at public colleges for any New Yorker whose family earns less than $125,000 a year.
The sweeping move would pay the entire tuition bill for students accepted to state and city schools and encompass almost a million middle- and low-income families.
“College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success ... and this society should say we’re going to pay for college because you need college to be successful,” Cuomo said at an event announcing the Excelsior Scholarship plan. “Other countries have already done it. It’s time this country catches up.”
If it succeeds, the proposal would go into effect by 2019 and cost the state about $163 million a year, Reuters news agency notes.
The proposal was unveiled alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during a speech at LaGuardia Community College. Sanders has long supported proposals for free college tuition and made the idea a key part of his platform during the presidential race. He continued those calls on Twitter shortly after Cuomo’s announcement:
Student loan debt continues to be a major hurdle for young Americans. The class of 2015 left school with an average debt of more than $30,000, and Cuomo noted New Yorkers only fared slightly better with a burden of $29,320.
The “program will alleviate the crushing burden of student debt and enable thousands of New Yorkers to realize their dream of a college education,” he wrote in a post on Medium Tuesday.
“New York is the State of Opportunity and a college education must be accessible to all, not a luxury that only the wealthy can afford,” he added.