75,000 Students Apply for NYS Excelsior Scholarships!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting that 75,000 students have applied for New York State Excelsior Scholarships.  As reported:

“This spring, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo won approval for his groundbreaking Excelsior Scholarship program to make college tuition-free for some students at New York’s public colleges and universities, the state anticipated that 23,000 people would benefit, sharing $87 million in funding.

Instead, 75,000 people applied.

And that means, in a program designed to help make higher education more affordable and accessible, roughly two-thirds of those who applied won’t get help.

In some cases, that is because their families exceeded the income cap, which is $100,000 for families this year, rising to $125,000 by 2019. But others did not have good enough grades to qualify, or their schooling had been interrupted in the past for work or personal reasons.

But while the idea of continued enrollment was mentioned when the scholarships were announced, some people have been surprised to learn that the requirement was retroactive and are now heartbroken.

And it’s students who need the money the most who might have the hardest time meeting these requirements. Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said that those in lower income brackets are more likely to take breaks in their education because of work and family responsibilities. As such, the Excelsior program has catered to “traditional age, middle- to upper-class families, and people who can navigate  

With many of the state’s public colleges starting school this week and next, it was unclear whether the initial projection of 23,000 award recipients would be accurate. The deadline for families to submit supporting financial documents was extended to this past Monday, according to the governor’s office, so final statistics are not expected for weeks. Also, community college students may still be enrolling, and current students may be finishing summer courses that could affect their averages.

Regardless of the issues raised in this article regarding eligibility, it appears the Excelsior Program will make it easier for many students to afford a higher education.



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