New York’s Free College Program May Be Lottery-Based

Posted on May 11th, 2017

When the Excelsior Scholarship Program was announced, many believed it meant that the majority of students in New York state would now be able to attend college for free.

That’s not entirely the case, as we explain in our recent post about the program. And more details have emerged that should give pause to students and families depending on this program.

Not all eligible students may get free college tuition

According to a recent WKBW report, some private colleges are telling students that funding for the program will likely be insufficient to cover the 900,000 potentially eligible students across the state.

Canisius College in Buffalo, NY estimates that only 1 in 3 students will receive the award for the 2017-18 academic year, with recipients selected by a lottery.

This is certainly news to eligible students based on the information that has provided about the program so far.

Previous information from Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it seem like any student who fulfilled the program requirements would be eligible to receive free college tuition.

New York state has committed $163 million to the program, which it estimates will cover 200,000+ students’ tuitions in the upcoming school year. But that’s just over half of the students enrolled with SUNY, WKBW reports.

While it’s not possible to know how many students will apply at this point, the actual legislation for the program states that “In the event that there are more applicants who have the same priority than there are remaining scholarships, the president shall distribute the remaining number of such scholarships by means of a lottery or other form of random selection.”

Based on the criteria for the program, 900,000 students would be eligible. Therefore, if every eligible student applies, there will not be enough scholarships to cover them all, and a lottery could take place.

June 7th will be the first day to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship Program. A deadline has not yet been set. However, based on this information, we would advise applying as soon as possible to maximize your chances of receiving the scholarship.

Private colleges may be a better option

The possibility for a lottery is extremely important information to keep in mind when choosing which college to attend and deciding whether this program is a good option for you. While the Excelsior Scholarship program sounds good on paper, there’s quite a bit of fine print, and it’s not right for everyone.

Students and families may find that a private college is a better option due to the predictability of a guaranteed private college scholarship (since the Excelsior Scholarship can’t be guaranteed all four years if there is a potential lottery) and the lack of post-graduation requirements (as opposed to the stipulation that Excelsior Scholarship recipients live in New York after graduation for the number of years they received the scholarship to avoid having it turn into a loan).

If you need help sorting through your options, maximizing your financial aid and figuring out how to make college more affordable, our college financing advisors can help. Call us at 1-888-234-3907 or contact us using this form.

Category: Financial Aid

Tags: , , , , , , , ,