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Senator opposes Cuomo plan to expand college programs in prisons

ALBANY — A Republican New York State senator said he’s opposed to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to provide more college programs to prisoners paid for by taxpayers.

“I support rehabilitation and reduced recidivism, but not on the taxpayer’s dime when so many individuals and families in New York are struggling to meet the ever-rising costs of higher education,” said Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo).

Grisanti said he opposes Cuomo’s proposal released on Sunday in part because financial aid for traditional graduate students has been cut.

Cuomo’s proposal to expand free college education in prisons is part of his 2014-15 executive budget, which is now being considered by the Legislature.

Cuomo said the state pays $60,000 a year to keep a prisoner incarcerated and 40 percent of them return to prison. Current college programs in prison cost taxpayers just $5,000 a year per prisoner and reduce recidivism, he said.

He didn’t release the cost of the program or how many prisoners could seek associate’s or bachelor’s degrees through his expanded college program.

Cuomo made the announcement at the annual meeting of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus in Albany that represents a key constituency for the Democrat, who is running for re-election.

Tuition costs traditional students $6,910 a year at the State University of New York and $5,800 at the City University of New York. For state residents, the total cost of attending SUNY or CUNY away from home is typically more than $21,000 a year, according to the CUNY website.

Traditional students and their families are also experiencing automatic annual tuition increases under the state's "rational tuition" program.

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