Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday signed into law a $25.8 billion state education spending plan that includes a $129 million boost in funding for Long Island, and a $386.8 million bump for New York City.
Cuomo, gave his final approval to the spending bill that was approved by state lawmakers last month, at a bill signing ceremony before an auditorium of high school students in Queens.
The governor noted this year’s education budget provides “$1 billion more” in state education funding than last year — including money for the state’s new free tuition program for New York students hailing from families that meet certain income criteria.
The Excelsior Scholarship program will cover tuition costs for residents attending the state’s SUNY and CUNY public university system, whose family household income is less than $100,000 this year. The income threshold will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019, according to Cuomo’s office.
“We have to say to people, ‘You have a public education system that is the escalator and can bring you as high as you want to go,’ ” Cuomo told students at the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Long Island City.
Cuomo defended the plan’s requirement that students must graduate college in four years to remain eligible for the program, and that they must remain in the New York after receiving their degree for the same amount of time they benefited from the scholarship.
Some critics have argued the plan would limit graduates’ job prospects, or would be a strain on low-income students who attend school part time because they also work.
“We don’t believe in the seven year college plan,” Cuomo said. “Two years, four years. Then, we want you to agree you’re going to stay and live in New York for four years afterwards, because why? If the taxpayers are going to pay for your education and make you smart and make you successful, they want to have you here. We want you to stay in New York. Right? That’s why the taxpayers are investing in you in the first place.”