New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced a plan to make tuition at state colleges and universities free for families earning less than $125,000 a year, a sign that the recent surge in student debt remains a politically potent issue even after the defeat of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
"This society should say, 'We're going to pay for college because you need college to be successful.' And New York State is going to do something about it," Cuomo said.
Cuomo made the announcement at LaGuardia Community College in the New York City borough of Queens, where he appeared with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders made free college tuition a cornerstone of his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year. And some of Sanders's free tuition policy was ultimately adopted by the party's eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.
The Cuomo plan would offer free tuition at two-year community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities operated by the State University of New York and City University of New York systems. While splashy, it still is just a plan and will require a vote by the state Legislature.
For politicians eager to make a connection with younger voters, the student issue is a clear winner. Rates of student debt have risen rapidly in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Besides mortgage debt, student debt is now the largest category of consumer debt in the country, with nearly $1.3 trillion in loans outstanding.
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