Most private colleges opt out of New York’s free tuition program

Posted on June 27th, 2017

There’s been plenty of talk (and controversy) over the Excelsior Scholarship program, which will provide students in New York from families under specific income levels with free tuition at state public colleges.

One new aspect of the new free college initiative that’s been overlooked by many is the Enhanced Tuition Awards Program, which provides up to $6,000 for students who choose to attend private colleges instead of one of the state’s SUNY or CUNY colleges.

But it hasn’t been all smooth-sailing for this program, either. In fact, a majority of the state’s private colleges are choosing not to participate, The Journal News reports.

What is the Enhanced Tuition Awards Program?

As with the Excelsior Scholarship, Enhanced TAP recipients must reside in New York State for up to four years after completing their degrees, or else the grants will convert into loans. Students also must complete 30 credits per year, earn passing grades and graduate within four years (for four-year programs) to receive the aid.

Also like the Excelsior Scholarship, if you receive a regular TAP award from the state, this will be subtracted and reduce the amount of your Enhanced TAP grant.

However, unlike with the Excelsior Scholarship, if you receive a Pell Grant or outside scholarships to go toward your tuition, these will not reduce the amount of your grant.

Western New York private colleges that are participating in the Enhanced TAP Program for 2017-18 include Canisius College, Niagara University, Alfred University, Hilbert College and Trocaire College.

Majority of private colleges not participating

Despite its benefits, most private colleges in New York are not participating in the Enchanced TAP for 2017-18.

The Journal News reports that two-thirds of colleges in the state (66 out of 95) have not enrolled in the program.

Locally, Buffalo’s Daemen College, Medaille College and D’Youville College have decided not to opt in to the program, The Buffalo News reports. St. Bonaventure University, located in Allegany, has also chosen not to participate.

Daemen College Buffalo Enhanced TAP

Daemen College in Buffalo, NY is one of 66 private colleges not participating in the state’s Enhanced Tuition Awards Program. By TonyTheTiger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Private colleges who have not enrolled say they found the program too expensive since they already provide generous financial aid for students.

They also cite the timing of the program (since most students received their financial aid packages earlier this spring) as well as the restrictions placed on students who receive the scholarship as reasons for not participating.

As Gary A. Olson, president of Daemen, told The Buffalo News,

We think it’s unfair to students to impose upon them all of these restrictions.

We give $25 million a year in our own scholarship money. We give a very generous package to all of our students.

Enhanced TAP restricted to few students

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for students at participating colleges.

Even the colleges that are participating in the program say they’ll have to limit the number of students who receive the grants. The President of Canisius College said the school will probably limit the Enhanced TAP grants to fewer than 100 students.

And Alfred College is awarding the scholarship to just 25 students because the university already had awarded its “best possible” aid packages, their spokeswoman told The Buffalo News.

The lack of funding for all students also a concern with the Excelsior Scholarship for state colleges.

It’s been reported that the state may hold a lottery to determine eligibility if there isn’t enough funding to cover all of the eligible students who apply. The deadline to apply for that program is July 21, 2017.

Should I choose Excelsior or Enhanced TAP?

It’s extremely important for students families to understand all of the fine print of the programs before accepting one of these “free tuition” awards.

As we’ve reported, both the Excelsior Scholarship and Enhanced Tuition Awards Program come with a number of drawbacks that students and families should carefully consider before applying or enrolling in either of these programs.

Each program may be beneficial for certain students in particular circumstances. But many students may find that they are better off avoiding these programs altogether and sticking with traditional forms of financial aid that offer fewer requirements and restrictions.

Given that the programs are being introduced so late in the financial aid cycle, colleges are scrambling to figure out how to proceed for 2017. It’s possible that next year, once the program has had more time to develop, more private colleges will be able to opt in to the program.

But at this point, even at participating private colleges the scholarships will be limited.

If you’ve already applied for and accepted a financial aid award, we recommend calling your college’s financial aid offices to find out whether you may be eligible and decide whether it makes sense for your situation.

And if you’re trying to sort out all of these new financial aid programs, figure out how to maximize your financial aid package or decide on a college that makes the most financial sense for your family, we can provide personalized assistance. Call our advisors at 1-888-234-3907 or send us a message and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

Category: Financial Aid

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