Hillary Clinton says she hopes the free college tuition plan approved by New York state lawmakers last week will lead other states to follow suit.
The former Democratic presidential nominee rallied with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City for a ceremonial bill signing of the scholarship for poor and middle class students.
Cuomo said that higher education "is not a luxury, it is a necessity," to which told the standing room-only crowd erupted in cheers. He says the new legislation could benefit 80 percent of families who live in New York state.
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"It is not a luxury, it is a necessity and if we aren't going to have it on the federal level, then we arent going to be denied it in New York," he said.
Clinton hailed the plan as a progressive victory and applauded the initiative from Democrat Cuomo, who is mentioned as a possible contender for the White House in 2020.
"I believe every single child and young person in New york and America deserves the chance as their hard work, their skills, education will take them," she said. "What we need to be doing is throwing open the doors for everyone willing to work and achieve their education."
The scholarship covers tuition at state universities for in-state students whose families earn $125,000 or less. Students must remain in New York for as many years as they received the benefit and repay the money as a loan if they take a job elsewhere.
Some students who initially planned to attend college out of state are now leaning toward sticking closer to home.
"I'm excited," says student Nicolette Pinto. "I'm excited, I'm grateful, and I know I don't have to worry if I can finish my education because I know I will."
"To see that it's actually happening...it's amazing to see how many families are going to benefit just like me," said student Diana Pereyra.
High school junior Vincenc Dondgoni is one of those who has shifted his perspective. For the first time, he's thinking about going to a state SUNY or CUNY school.
"New York is filled with opportunities, so having to stay here isn't really an issue," he said. "We are the center of business and culture in America."