Sanders, Cuomo Push for Tuition-Free Public Higher Ed

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y., Jan. 2 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made tuition-free public higher education a key proposal in his presidential campaign, joined Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday in unveiling a plan for New York public colleges and universities that Sanders called “a model for the rest of the nation.”

Sanders and Cuomo appeared together before some 1,000 students and parents at LaGuardia Community College where the governor previewed the proposal in advance of his State of the State address later this month to New York lawmakers.

American students and their parents hold a staggering $1.3 trillion in college debt, a figure that surpasses Americans’ credit card tab and auto loans. In New York, the average debt for a graduate of a four-year college is more than $29,000.

“If the United States is to succeed in a highly-competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce in the world. With an 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. In other words, we must make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle class and working families of our country.

“That is what Gov. Cuomo is fighting for here in New York and it's something I strongly support. I urge New York legislators to pass this enormously important proposal and become a model for the rest of the nation,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the high cost of college and mounting debts for obtaining a degree are major factors in why the United States, once the world leader in young people getting a higher education, now ranks No. 11.

Sanders’ call for tuition-free public colleges and universities was a hallmark of his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. The proposal became a key plank in the Democratic Party platform, the most progressive policy agenda in party history.

In New York, Cuomo’s proposal would be phased in over three years and eventually would cover tuition for families and individuals making up to $125,000 a year.