ALBANY -- Hillary Clinton praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday after the state approved making SUNY tuition free for income-eligible students.
Cuomo has toured the state in recent days to promote the program, the first of its kind in the nation, after it was included in the state budget approved Sunday night.
With Clinton, the initiative received the stamp of approval of the former New York senator and former first lady, who made college affordability a plank of her failed presidential platform last year.
"This is an idea whose time has come," Clinton said at the event at LaGuardia Community College in Queens for a ceremonial bill signing.
The measure will allow students whose families' income is less than $100,000 to receive free SUNY tuition this fall. SUNY tuition is $6,470 a year.
The free tuition threshold will grow to $125,000 a year by 2019, and it requires students to stay in New York after they graduate for the same number of years they received the scholarship. They also have to graduate within four years and get good grades.
Cuomo said free college should be equated to what free high school was once considered. He first announced the proposal in January with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"We had free public high school for everyone. And today, my friends, colleges is what high school was 70 years ago. It is not a luxury. It is a necessity," he said.
Clinton, who lives in Chappaqua, Westchester County, said, "There is no more important issue than education."
She repeatedly praised Cuomo, who is a potential 2020 presidential candidate, and said she hoped other states will follow, saying every student should have the opportunity to attend college.
"I am here to today to reinforce what the governor has accomplished. He is absolutely right: education and training are the future," Clinton said.
Clinton said the "Excelsior Scholarship is going to send a message of hope to families."
And she ended with a barb at Washington, saying leaders there should see what New York is doing.
"We don't need to be building walls," she said. "We need to be building bridges. And the best bridge to the future is a good education, my friends."
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