Gov. Cuomo eyes giving Dreamers free college tuition

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WOODBURY -

So-called 'Dreamers' on Long Island and across the state could soon be attending college for free. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put a provision in his proposed $168 billion plan – using $27 million to extend free public college tuition to students who were brought in to the U.S. illegally as children.

Manuela Hurtado, an honor student at SUNY Old Westbury, called the proposal "amazing."

"We'd finally be given that chance – an equal right, an equal opportunity – to education that we all deserve," said Hurtado. 

Under Gov. Cuomo's plan, Dreamers would be eligible for the Excelsior Program that covers tuition for students whose families make less than $125,000 a year. 

The only condition of the program is that students who receive the free tuition must live and work in the state once they graduate, or pay the money back.

Republicans in the state Senate say they are not on board with the proposal.

State Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said in a statement to News 12, "We don't support giving free college tuition to people who are here illegally while middle-class New Yorkers scrimp and save, take out massive college loans and work two jobs in the hopes they can afford to send their own kids to college."

State Sen. Tom Croci (R-3rd District) says he believes the $27 million should be applied to the state's Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP.

Dreamer Priscilia Ortega says free tuition would be wonderful, but she doesn't want any special treatment. 

"I don't believe that anyone should have any other privileges than anyone else. We're all equal and we deserve an equal opportunity to advance our knowledge," said Ortega.
 

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