LONG ISLAND CITY, NY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday enacting the Excelsior Scholarship, which will provide tuition-free college at New York’s public universities to families making up to $125,000 a year.

According to the Governor’s Office, 78.8 percent of the 68,712 Western New York families with college-age students will be eligible for the program.

The legislation was passed as part of the state’s Fiscal 2018 budget. Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio, who represent the Greater Olean area in the state Legislature, both voted in favor of the budget.

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The program is designed to fill the gap between the cost of tuition and other state and federal aid students are receiving. It will be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019.

To be eligible, students must be enrolled in college full time, take an average of 30 credits each year and complete their degrees on time. The program includes provisions to allow students to pause and restart their studies if they encounter hardships.

"By providing tuition-free college to thousands of middle class New Yorkers, we are restoring the promise of the American Dream for the next generation and forging a bold path forward of access and opportunity for the rest of the nation to follow, Cuomo said.

Cuomo signed the bill into law at LaGuardia Community College. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took part in the ceremony with the governor. Clinton served as one of New York’s U.S senators from 2001 to 2009.

"New York State has long been a pioneer in education,” said Clinton. “Taking this next step to make college tuition-free for hardworking families is the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do.”