The new free-tuition program for New Yorkers has been welcomed with mixed reviews because of its requirements.
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The Excelsior Scholarship has been receiving mixed reviews ever since it was announced to begin next fall. While the requirements for the scholarship are not extensive, they are limiting and could potentially cause issues for graduates in the future.

The basics

To qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship, you need to be enrolled at a SUNY or CUNY school, and community colleges are included as well.

In the program’s debut this fall, only families who earn up to $100,000 annually will be eligible. This income gap will increase over time, reaching $110,000 next year and then $125,000 in 2019. The downside to this income gap is that if your family makes more than the set amount, you won’t be eligible for the scholarship.

Catch #1

One requirement of the program, which has sparked some debate, is that students receiving the scholarship must be enrolled as full-time students. Now, being a full-time student usually means taking at least 12 credits a semester, but say goodbye to being able to drop that difficult chemistry class you had no choice but to sign up for because the program has a 30-credit requirement for each year. And while 15 credits per semester may not seem like much, it can be a lot to handle if you don’t choose your classes wisely.

The 30-credit requirement is supposed to encourage students to stay on track and graduate on time, but it can be difficult if you also have a job or other responsibilities.

Catch #2

The second requirement of the program is incredibly significant, as graduates who received the scholarship must stay in New York for the same amount of time they received the scholarship. That means if you receive the scholarship for all four years of your undergraduate education, you need to stay in New York state for at least four years after you graduate. If you decide to skip out before those four years are up, the scholarship you received will turn into a loan.

This requirement alone has sparked a lot of discussion on the program, as some people are afraid that it will limit the opportunities for graduates and increase unemployment rates.

While having to stay in New York for a certain amount of time after graduation can be frustrating, you don’t want to lose the scholarship and have to pay all the money back. Unfortunately, that is not the only way to lose the scholarship.

Catch #3

Similar to any other scholarship out there, the Excelsior Scholarship has the usual guidelines. You need to keep a GPA that will allow you to successfully complete your coursework and stay on track for graduation. A minimum GPA has yet to be specified but could potentially cause issues for students who have difficulty with their classes.

You can also lose the scholarship if you don’t successfully complete 30 credits each year (as mentioned in Catch #1).

The benefits

While there are some limitations to the Excelsior Scholarship, the biggest benefit is that students will receive free tuition. Considering that student debt is constantly on the rise, this program will hopefully allow that number to begin to decrease over time.

This program has a lot of potential to be helpful for nearly 80 percent of families with college-aged children in New York. These families might have otherwise taken out loans or possibly not have even thought about college for their children because of the cost of tuition.


Although the Excelsior Scholarship has a few limitations, it has the potential to help many students get through college. This free-tuition program allows New York to focus on improving higher education and making college more available to those who might not have been able to attend.

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Posted 04.24.2017 - 01:21 pm EDT