Governor Cuomo Announces 20 Percent Increase in Excelsior Scholarships in Year Two of First-in-the-Nation Program

September 10, 2019

From the office of Governor Cuomo

24,000 Students Receiving Excelsior Scholarship in Year Two, Up From 20,000 in Year One

Community College On-Time Graduation Rate More Than Double for Excelsior Students Compared to Their Peers

Indicators Show On-Time Completion Rates Continue To Rise

Overall More Than 210,000 Students Will Go to SUNY or CUNY Tuition-Free, Including Students Receiving Excelsior Scholarship, TAP, Pell and Other Financial Aid

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a 20 percent increase in Excelsior Scholarships in year two of the first-in-the-nation program. Approximately 24,000 SUNY and CUNY students are estimated to receive the Excelsior Scholarship at the completion of year two, up from 20,000 scholarships in year one.

The Governor also announced that the preliminary two-year on-time graduation rate of Excelsior students attending a SUNY and CUNY community college is twice as high as the typical graduation rate. The on-time graduation rate for Excelsior students at SUNY community colleges is 30 percent compared to the non-Excelsior graduation rate of 11 percent. For CUNY, the on-time graduation rate for Excelsior students in community colleges is 30 percent, compared to 12 percent for non-Excelsior community college students.

Additionally, since 2016, SUNY and CUNY have experienced a notable increase in the percentage of full-time freshmen taking 15 credits or more in their first semester - the amount necessary to graduate on time. CUNY increased from 31 percent to 44 percent, while SUNY increased from 54 percent to 58 percent. Overall, more than 210,000 students will go to SUNY or CUNY tuition-free, including students receiving Excelsior Scholarship, TAP, Pell and other financial aid.

"The Excelsior Scholarship program is off to an impressive start," Governor Cuomo said. "This program is far more than free-tuition for New York's future leaders - it is a college completion and degree attainment program. We now know that with Excelsior, students stay on track academically to achieve their degree in two or four years, and completing college in this time frame translates into substantial savings for middle-class students and their families."

"The Excelsior Scholarship program has been a major success story for tens of thousands of students across New York," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "With this nation-leading program, we are opening new doors and pathways to success and ensuring every New Yorker has access to higher education. Student debt is a nationwide crisis that is holding young people back from achieving their full economic potential. The Excelsior Scholarship continues to be an effective way to address this crisis, and an investment in the future of our state."   

The Excelsior Scholarship has been phased in over three years, expanding eligibility to more New York families each year. For the 2019-20 academic year, New Yorkers with household incomes up to $125,000 are eligible, increasing from $110,000 in 2018-19 and $100,000 in 2017-18. Students must be enrolled in college full-time and complete 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, and all recipients can have flexibility in setting the number of credits per semester provided they completed 30 credits per year.

President of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation Dr. Guillermo Linares said, "In its second year, the Excelsior Scholarship has continued to enable an unprecedented number of New York's students' access to a college education. This is enabling them to meet the demands of the workforce of tomorrow and placing them and our State on a path to a more vibrant future."

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, "SUNY continues to be a high-quality affordable education, and that is due in large part to ongoing New York State investment in our students for tuition, books, and student services. With the Excelsior Scholarship, the program continues to do as promised - enabling more New Yorkers the chance of a higher education by eliminating the cost of tuition. And, as a result of the program, students are more likely to stay on track to complete their degree on time and with less debt then many other students across the nation."

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, "The Excelsior Scholarship has been a demonstrated boon to New Yorkers. At CUNY, it means a great deal to know that Governor Cuomo is deeply committed to extending opportunity to all students. The Excelsior Scholarship has proven to be a useful vehicle for expanding access to higher education and keeping students on track to complete their degree - which, as we know, is a necessary prerequisite in a growing range of well-paying career paths."

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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