What you need to know about New York’s Excelsior Scholarship Program

Posted on April 24th, 2017

Many of our clients have been asking about the new Excelsior Scholarship program, which will provide free tuition at in-state public colleges for New York state students if their family meets certain income requirements.

While it may sound too good to be true, there are a lot of important details and things you need to keep in mind when considering the program.

New York’s free college program comes with a catch

One crucial detail is that the Excelsior Scholarship program doesn’t cover room and board or college fees. The Excelsior Scholarship covers tuition only. If your tuition costs are fully covered by another scholarship program, you will not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship.

It’s also very important to realize that if you accept this award, you must live in New York state after for the number of years you accepted the award for, or it will convert to a loan.

Depending on a student’s income, plans and other scholarships, they may find that a private college is still a more affordable option.

Read these important FAQs about the program, and contact us if you want personalized help figuring out whether this program is a good option for your family.

FAQs about the Excelsior Scholarship

What is the Excelsior Scholarship program?
The Excelsior Scholarship is a New York state program that covers the cost of tuition at in-state public colleges (including community colleges) for students living in New York that meet certain income requirements. The program will begin in Fall 2017. The award is available for p to two years for students pursuing an associate’s degree, up to four years for students obtaining a bachelor’s and five years for students in special five-year programs.

What are the income and residency requirements to get free tuition?
If you are a NYS resident whose family household adjusted gross income (as filed on your 2015 federal tax returns) does not exceed $100,000 for the 2017-18 academic year and you complete 30 credits per year, you will be able to attend a SUNY or CUNY college tuition free. The income limit increases to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019.

To be considered a NYS resident for purposes of receiving this award, you must have resided in New York state for 12 continuous months prior to the semester for which the award is being sought.

Do I have to apply?

Yes. According to POLITICO New York, the application for the program is expected to be available in late May for Fall 2017.

It will be the responsibility of the colleges and New York’s Higher Education Services Corporation to notify students that they are eligible and to provide them with the paperwork. In future years, applying may mean simply checking a box, and the scholarship funding will be listed based on eligibility the same as it does for state and federal aid, POLITICO reports.

Is there a deadline to apply?

The deadline to apply for 2017-18 is July 21, 2017. Students who don’t apply on time will likely not be eligible for the scholarship.

What isn’t covered?
The Excelsior Scholarship will not cover the cost of college fees, room, board, textbooks or any other expenses associated with attending college besides tuition. At a SUNY 4-year school, students can expect to pay over $15,000 per year for room, board, fees and textbooks, compared to $6,470 for tuition.

Can the Excelsior Scholarship be combined with other types of financial aid?
The Excelsior Scholarship is not intended to replace other types of financial aid. If you receive TAP, a Pell Grant, or any other scholarships (including college-specific scholarships), you are only eligible to receive the Excelsior Scholarship free tuition benefit if there is a balance remaining on the cost of tuition after these funds are applied. Therefore, if you receive other scholarships that cover the full cost of your tuition, you will not be eligible to receive the Excelsior Scholarship.

Does the program provide any money for students attending private colleges?
The state has created a new financial assistance program for private school students whose families make under the income cap. These students are eligible for maximum award of $3,000. Colleges that participate would have to match that funding and agree to not raise the student’s tuition during her enrollment.

Can I get an award if I’m already in college?
Yes. Students who are currently attending college are eligible to receive an award, provided they are currently on track to complete their degree on time.

Can I get an award if I’m a transfer student?
A student who transferred between colleges is eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship if they are on track to complete on time based on the number of credits accepted by their current college and meet the other income, residency and academic requirements.

I already have an undergraduate degree. Can I get an Excelsior Scholarship to pursue a second degree?
Applicants who have an associate’s degree are eligible to pursue a bachelor’s degree. However, you may not receive an award to pursue a second associate’s or a second bachelor’s degree.

Are graduate students eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship?
No, they are not. The scholarship can only be used to obtain an associate’s or undergraduate degree.

Do I need a certain GPA or amount of credits to get or keep the award?
Award recipients need to enroll in at least 12 credits per semester, earn 30 credits over the course of a year and maintain a passing GPA to maintain their scholarship. If a student fails to complete these requirements, they can lose the scholarship.

Are there any other requirements that I must meet after I complete my degree?
Yes. You must live in New York State for the number of years equal to awards you received. For example, if you received four Excelsior Scholarship awards while getting your bachelor’s degree, you must live in New York State for four years after college. In addition, if you are working during those years, you must work in New York State. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the conversion of your award to a loan. Therefore, students who do not plan to work in New York state after graduation should carefully assess their options before enrolling in this program.

If I complete my undergraduate degree and leave New York state to attend graduate/medical/law school, does my scholarship become a loan?
No, not immediately. You can attend graduate school in another state, but you need to return to New York to complete the residency requirements after you finish.

Need personalized help figuring out how to pay for college or getting the most financial aid possible? Contact our financial aid experts.

Category: Financial Aid

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