Excelsior Scholarship Program

The new Excelsior Scholarship program offers free tuition at state-funded schools. However, it requires students to complete 30 credits per year in order to keep the award. This is not realistic for students from low-income families.

The Excelsior Scholarship program allows New York State residents whose families earn $125,000 or less annually to attend SUNY and CUNY colleges tuition-free. This is in addition to other federal and state financial aid programs. However, students must meet certain eligibility requirements, including income and academic progress. Moreover, the scholarship only covers tuition charges and not fees, room, and meals. To remain eligible for the program, students must maintain a certain GPA and earn at least 30 credits each academic year. Students may use intersessions and summer terms to meet these requirements.

How to Qualify?

To qualify for the scholarship, students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a NYS Student Aid Payment Application each year. These applications are available online. Financial aid professionals are crucial to the success of the program because they are responsible for connecting students to state financial aid opportunities, helping them manage their awards, and addressing any problems that arise. They also help determine Excelsior Scholarship recipients’ eligibility by verifying credits, calculating award amounts, and certifying their payment eligibility at the end of each semester.

To receive an Excelsior Scholarship, students must be matriculated at a SUNY or CUNY institution. They must be enrolled in at least 12 credits each fall and spring. Remedial courses (099 and 098) do not count toward the 30 earned credit requirement. Students must also enroll in courses during intersession and summer to meet the 30-credit minimum. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in loss of eligibility for the next semester.

If you are a current Excelsior Scholarship recipient and want to remain eligible for the award, you must submit a FAFSA form and NYS Tuition Assistance Program application every year. You can sign up on the HESC website to be notified when the applications are available.

The first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship is a flawed program that excludes many working students and student parents. This includes a large number of people of color, who are likely to be disproportionately affected by the program’s shortcomings.

What GPA is Required for the Excelsior Scholarship
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What GPA is Required for the Excelsior Scholarship?

The Excelsior Scholarship is designed to help students attend CUNY or SUNY schools tuition-free. It is designed to complement existing student financial aid programs, including TAP, Pell, and New York City Merit Scholarship. Applicants must be a resident of New York State and have a family-adjusted gross income that does not exceed $110,000. They must also maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 and earn 30 credits a year.

The scholarship can be used to cover all of a student’s college costs, or it can be applied to specific areas like books, housing, or meals. The award is available to all students who are enrolled in a degree program at an eligible CUNY or SUNY institution. The application opens between April and July before the fall semester and is typically due in August. Students can apply online or in person at a HEAC office.

HESC verifies students’ eligibility by reviewing the FAFSA and obtaining verification from the colleges they attend. Each college must verify the number of credit hours enrolled and earned, other student awards, the Excelsior Scholarship amount, and the term indicator. Students must be on-track to complete an Associate’s degree in two years or a Bachelor’s degree in four years. They must also agree to sign a contract to live and work in New York State for the duration of their award.

What is the Acceptance Rate for the Excelsior Scholarship Program
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What is the Acceptance Rate for the Excelsior Scholarship Program?

Since the program’s launch in 2017, only 3 percent of CUNY and SUNY students have been able to take advantage of it. This is especially true for students at CUNY senior colleges, where only two schools saw more than 2 percent of their enrolled students receive the scholarship. This underutilization highlights the difficulty of implementing a free college initiative. Policymakers should look to other states, such as New Mexico, which offers free tuition at four-year colleges, for guidance on improving their programs. These policies should be carefully crafted to ensure that the most low-income students are able to take advantage of them.

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