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Cuomo calls for student loan forgiveness among other higher education initiatives

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposals Wednesday to bolster higher education included forgiving student loans for some recent graduates living in New York, providing free tuition for students who commit to teaching after they earn their degrees and increasing spending by $50 million on the State University of New York system.

Cuomo also announced plans to better link community colleges with employers to provide training for workers and to invest more in a state venture fund aimed at assisting start-up companies across the state. Pointing to Stanford University and Silicon Valley as a model, Cuomo said communities across New York can reap similar economic benefits from colleges and universities.

“That can happen here in New York, but we have to make the investment,” he said.

The venture fund helps keep small start-up companies with big potential from moving out of New York to seek better funding opportunities, Cuomo said.

“Let’s invest in our home-grown companies and keep the jobs here now,” he said.

University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi, who was in Albany for Cuomo’s speech and presentation, said the governor appeared to be building upon other initiatives that leverage higher education as an economic driver, including Start-Up New York. That initiative has resulted in 24 companies and 1,200 jobs being located around the UB campus.

Entrepreneurs sometimes struggle to attract private investors because their product or idea isn’t fully developed enough. The venture capital fund could help such companies reach the next level of development and serve as a bridge to private investment, Tripathi said. “If you consider all those together, this is all talking about economic development,” he said.

Cuomo said the student loan forgiveness program would make it easier for recent college graduates to live and work in New York.

“It’s a troubling situation because they have high debt and low wages,” he said. “We’ll pay the debt for the first two years so they can get their feet under them and get on with their lives.”

Graduates who attend college in New York, live in the state following graduation and earn less than $50,000 per year would be eligible.

Katherine S. Conway-Turner, president of SUNY Buffalo State, called the loan forgiveness plan an innovative way to approach student debt. The proposal of free tuition for top-performing students at SUNY and CUNY schools who go on to be teachers also “will be quite a boost” for students who really want to be teachers but steer clear for fear of being saddled with loan debt right out of college, she said.

Cuomo also proposed legislation that would apply a new SUNY policy for handling complaints of sexual assault on state campuses to all private colleges and universities, as well.