In a relatively rare appearance since her Election Day loss in November, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appeared with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday to hail the passage of tuition-free state college for families with an income less than $125,000 in New York.
The measure – passed in the state budget on Sunday – is the first of its kind in the nation, and an idea brought to the fore during the Democratic presidential primary by both Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Cuomo said it was an “outrageously ambitious idea, but an irrefutably smart idea.” He credited Clinton as “the inspiration for the idea” and called Clinton “our inspiration, and our champion.”
“I’ll take it, I’ll take it,” Clinton said, taking the podium at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.
The legislation, and credit from Clinton, could burnish Cuomo’s credentials if he runs for president in 2020. Cuomo is a longtime ally of the Clintons, having served as the state’s top housing official in the cabinet of former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton said that the legislation gives working families in New York a “raise” and said she hopes that other states – and even a Republican-controlled Congress – follow suit.
“We don’t need to be building walls, we need to be building bridges,” Clinton said. “And the best bridge to the future is education.”
Cuomo, who repeatedly referenced his Queens roots at the appearance and its working-class nature, noted that 95 percent of jobs created since 2008 require a college education. Yet many students that do go to college graduate with a mountain of debt. Cuomo maintained the legislation would make New York more economically competitive because companies are looking for an educated workforce.
“It’s not just an individual’s hopes, it’s the long-term economic prospects for this state and this nation,” Cuomo said.
The legislation contains what critics contend is a catch: Students who get the free CUNY and SUNY tuition must live and work in New York for up to four years or repay the money. It was added at the insistence of Senate Republicans, who say New York should not pay for college for those that then flee the state.