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Pataki offers free college to victims' families



NEW YORK (CNN) -- Gov. George E. Pataki announced Tuesday that New York State will provide free college education for family members of victims of the World Trade Center disaster who attend schools in New York state or city.

"Education, tuition, room, board, fees, whatever the costs are," he told reporters. "We are a caring and compassionate people," he said. "This is another major step we can take to ease, in some small way, the suffering and the sorrow of those whose loved ones were lost in this catastrophe."

The benefit would also apply to survivors of the terrorist attack who were left disabled, as well as their family members, the governor said.

Pataki said he would propose legislation "in the next day or two" to expand the benefits to cover police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and members of the ambulance corps, "should something happen to them as well" during rescue and recovery operations.

"They have risked their lives, they have given their lives, and it's important that we recognize their sacrifice, their contribution as well," he said.

The benefit would apply to spouses, children and stepchildren of victims, he said, and covers university costs at state or city schools or any private college or university in the state.

Pataki said he devised the plan after meeting with family members of victims.

"I would hear again and again, 'How am I going to pay for my child's education? How am I going to pay for college?' Now they don't have to worry about that."

He called the benefit "another small step toward getting them through the incredible grief and sorrow that they feel. We're proud, as New Yorkers, to be able to take that step."

Pataki said he made the move by executive order, and expressed confidence the boards of state and city universities would pass resolutions supporting it.






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