Excelsior Scholarship Become Law

College tuition has always been a concern for those attending, but New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, believe they have finally found the solution for families who live in New York State: The Excelsior Scholarship.

The idea of college tuition being free for students had always been an idea that didn’t seem achievable, however since Senator Sanders presidential campaign, this idea has finally become a reality.

Cuomo had reached out to Senator Sanders shortly after the end of Sander’s campaign in hopes of creating a plan that would alleviate the financial burden of college costs that many middle-class families are facing in New York. Thus, the introduction of the Excelsior Scholarship earlier this year.

Starting in the fall of 2017, families whose annual income is below $100,000 are eligible for their children to receive free college tuition at any SUNY or CUNY school. After the fall of 2017, the income requirements will be raised each year up until 2019 where the final income requirement would be $125,000. By 2019, families in New York State will be eligible for free college tuition to attend SUNY or CUNY schools.

According to the governor of New York State’s website, “New York’s tuition-free degree program, the Excelsior Scholarship, is the first-of-its-kind in the nation and will enable thousands of bright, young students to realize their dream of higher education.”

Although The Excelsior Scholarship has already been passed by the state legislature in Albany, there are questions regarding the details of how a revolutionary plan such as this one will work; what are the underlying requirements of the program, will the SUNY or CUNY schools reach over capacity and how will private institutions be effected?

Despite the fact that The Excelsior Scholarship is supposed to alleviate the financial burden for many New York State families, there are still requirements that students have to commit to if they are accepted into the program. According to the New York State Higher Education Corporation, students must “enroll in at least 12 credits per term and complete 30 credits per year,” otherwise their scholarship will either be lost or turned into a loan.

It is difficult for a student to fully commit to this aspect of the scholarship due to the fact that they don’t know what factors may prevent them from continuing to be a full time student. However, this is not the only requirement that has raised concerns for students and their families.

Another factor is the commitment to remain in New York State after the student receives their degree.

The NYS Higher Education Corporation’s writes, “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 to this requirement, graduates of the program must also work in New York State for the same number of years. If the college graduate cannot make this commitment then the money that was originally given as a scholarship to them, will be turned into a loan. These requirements are crucial to the decision making process. But they are not publicized when people first hear about this scholarship.

With the scholarship being put into action by next semester, private institutions like Manhattan College have been keeping a close eye on the effect it may have on their annual enrollment.

Vice President for Enrollment Management at Manhattan College, William Bisset, Ph.D. has been been watching the progress of the scholarship and keeping in mind the potential effects it may have on enrollment at the college.

Bisset states how many of the students at the college can qualify for The Excelsior Scholarship. “Those are our students, right there, the majority of students at Manhattan College currently enrolled here fall into… especially freshmen and potentially sophomores that could consider transferring for better financial aid offers with SUNY,” Bisset said.

Although the proposal has already been passed by legislature, the application to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship will not be made available to students and their families until late May, when students have already made their college decision.

With this idea in mind Bisset states, “Yeah [The Excelsior Scholarship is] out there but people think they are so close to that final stage of the decision making process that it’s not going to have a huge impact on where they ultimately end up.”

In the future, however, the scholarship program will be looked at by staff members of the college such as Bisset who states that, “maybe we will see [the scholarship] more as a focus of conversation with the fall 2018 group that is coming in as freshmen.”