Governor Cuomo on stage with Hillary Clinton signing the Excelsior Scholarship into law.
Excelsior Scholarship

The Excelsior Scholarship is Leading the Way to College Affordability

On April 8, it was announced that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, a first-of-its-kind in the nation program, will provide tuition-free college at New York’s public colleges and universities to families making up to $125,000 a year, and is included in the FY 2018 Budget agreement. The first-in-the-nation plan will be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, $110,000 in 2018, and $125,000 in 2019. The Budget additionally includes $8 million to provide open educational resources, including e-books, to students at SUNY and CUNY colleges to help defray the prohibitive cost of textbooks.

The Excelsior Scholarship makes SUNY tuition-free for thousands of students.

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The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are intended to provide information about the Excelsior Scholarship, or tuition-free, program. Additional FAQs about the program are also available through the Higher Education Services Corporation at hesc.ny.gov.

What is covered by the Excelsior Scholarship?

The program covers tuition for eligible SUNY and CUNY students. Resident undergraduate tuition at SUNY’s four-year colleges is currently $6,470. SUNY community college tuition is currently for $4,366, on average.

The program does not cover the other costs of college, which include but are not limited to fees, room and board, transportation, textbooks, meal plans, and more. For more details on these costs within SUNY, visit our Tuition and Fees page.

What are the requirements for students?

The program will be phased in over three years, beginning in Fall 2017. It would first apply to families who earn $100,000 or less, then to those who earn $110,000 or less in 2018, and eventually reaching $125,000 or less in 2019. The income calculation is based on federal adjusted gross income, as reported on federal income tax forms, for the student and their family.

Excelsior scholarship income chart - what income a family is required to be below to be eligible.

Students must be enrolled in college full-time and average 30 credits per year (including Summer and January semesters) in order to receive the funding, however, the program has built in flexibility so that any student facing hardship is able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits one semester than another. This requirement on students will encourage on-time degree completion.

Finally, students are required to maintain a grade point average necessary for the successful completion of their coursework, and students are required to reside in New York State for the same number of years in which they received the award. The student does not need to be employed during this period, however they cannot be employed in another state.

How is (gross adjusted) income determined?

Gross adjusted income is calculated through federal tax forms. Students will use the income listed for the 2017-18 FASFA application, from their 2015 taxes.

What are the residency requirements for the Excelsior Scholarship Program?

Residency requirements are the same as requirements for other New York State financial aid programs.  

How many students are eligible?

Nearly 80 percent or more than 940,000 families with college-aged children across New York qualify for tuition-free college at SUNY and CUNY.

Does SUNY have the capacity for what may be a significant increase in enrollment?

SUNY community colleges currently have about 3 to 5 percent physical capacity on average, with some up to 10 percent, for new students. There is less physical capacity at the four-year colleges.

SUNY is still reviewing capacity data to provide a more precise estimate, and is reviewing how an influx of students might affect campus needs for additional faculty and staff.

Is the Excelsior Scholarship truly unique?

The Excelsior Scholarship is a first-of-its-kind in the nation tuition-free program:

What other resources are available to students to alleviate the costs of college?

SUNY encourages high school students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which is used to determine eligibility for federal and New York State (NYS) financial aid programs, including the NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

To better understand the costs of college and begin filling out the FAFSA form, please visit SUNY Smart Track Website for High School Students and Families.  

Information specific to TAP and other NYS Grants and Scholarships can be found at www.hesc.ny.gov.

Will current SUNY students be eligible next year?

Yes.

Are graduate students eligible?

No.

Are students who take online classes eligible?

Yes.

Is it possible for students to lose their Excelsior Scholarship?

Yes. Students must be enrolled in college full-time and average 30 credits per year (including Summer and January semesters) in order to receive the funding, however, the program has built in flexibility so that any student facing hardship is able to pause and restart the program, or take fewer credits one semester than another. This requirement on students will encourage on-time degree completion.

Will any exceptions be made for part-time students or those with disabilities?

Yes. As with the TAP grants, students with disabilities will not be required to register full-time to be eligible for the scholarship.

How do I apply?

The Excelsior program application procedures and regulations will be developed and managed by the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). For more information, visit hesc.ny.gov.

 

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