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Gov. Cuomo’s much-heralded new program for free tuition at state colleges comes with a huge catch.

Under a provision that was added to the tuition bill at the last moment, students who get a free ride at CUNY and SUNY schools must live and work in New York State for up to four years after graduation, or be forced to pay the money back.

The amendment — which was not part of Cuomo’s original offer of free college for middle-class students — was added at the insistence of Republicans in the state Senate.

The GOP members worried that taxpayer-educated students would take their valuable knowledge and flee to other parts of the U.S., particularly from remote upstate communities.

“New York spends $1 billion on college financial assistance. There is a brain-drain problem,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

We have to get away from educating people and then having them move away. We want to create a climate for business and new jobs.”

Cuomo agreed with the change.

“Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and you move to California?” Cuomo said during a call with state editorial writers.

“The concept of investing in you and your education is that you’re going to stay here and be an asset to the state. If you don’t want to stay here, then go to California now, let them pay for your college education.”

But one professor of higher education slammed the proposal as “economically and educationally foolish.”

“As someone who has worked on almost every free college bill, I promise @NYGovCuomo won’t be remembered well if he keeps this provision,” Temple University Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab tweeted.

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