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Cuomo Promises To Expand Tuition Support For Gold Star Families

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Governor Andrew Cuomo says he won't wait for the next budget to expand free college tuition for Gold Star Families.

"To our military families, we express gratitude, respect and admiration," he said during a news conference on Wednesday.

Cuomo put that gratitude into action by announcing sweeping changes to the state's merit scholarship program which provides free college tuition for Gold Star Families, reports CBS2's Jessica Moore.

Gold Star Families refers to people who have lost a close loved who were actively serving in U.S. armed forces.

"New Yorkers want to extend benefits to all those lost on active duty period," Cuomo said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Speaking On Gold Star Families

Until now, the scholarship program only applied to family members of servicemen and women killed in actual combat, leaving people like John Raguso, whose son Christopher was killed in a helicopter crash while on duty in Iraq, stunned and saddened for his grandchildren.

"The fact that some children wouldn't be eligible for this free college that we're talking about is an absolute travesty of justice," said John Raguso.

The governor's announcement overturns last week's controversial ruling by the state assembly committee on higher education which voted 15-11 against expanding free tuition to children whose parents were hurt or killed in military training.

That same committee instead approved $27 million in tuition assistance to so called "dreamers," children brought to the country illegally.

MORE: Bipartisan Outrage After New York's Budget Committee Pays For 'Dreamers' In College But Not Gold Star Families

"Taxpayer money for free college for illegal immigrants, yet struck down a bill that provides free college tuition to Gold Star Families - absolutely wrong and insulting," said Assemblyman Michael Lipetri of Long Island's 9th District.

The governor says the expansion will cost the state several million dollars but vowed to find the money and implement the change immediately.

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