On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his proposal to expand the Excelsior Scholarship eligibility to include more middle-class families in New York.
The Excelsior Scholarship was first introduced in 2017 and currently makes tuition free for families earning up to $125,000 at SUNY and CUNY schools. Under the proposal, families who earn up to $150,000 annually would qualify for the scholarship. This would allow 230,000 more New Yorkers to attend a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free.
“We made history with free college tuition for tens of thousands of working- and middle-class families making up to $125,000 a year,” Cuomo said at his 2020 State of the State address. “This year I propose we go to the next level and let’s make college tuition free for families making up to $150,000 a year.”
According to the Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a nonpartisan policy organization aiming to “create a more prosperous, equitable and inclusive New York,” in 2018, only 3% of public college students were able to “take advantage” of the Excelsior Scholarship.
“Currently, far too few of the students who enroll at SUNY and CUNY end up getting a credential,” CUF stated in their research. “[State Government] should also take other steps to support student success at colleges and community colleges across the state — including helping low-income students overcome non-tuition related financial barriers.”
To be eligible to receive this scholarship it is required to be a New York resident, be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen, “have either graduated from high school in the United States, earned a high school equivalency diploma or passed a federally approved ‘Ability to Benefit’” and to pursue an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college.
Additionally, while receiving the scholarship recipients must take at least 12 credits per term and complete 30 credits a year, be in a non-default status on a student loan made under any state or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any state award, be in compliance with the terms of any state award previously received and complete a contract agreeing to reside in New York for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in the state.
However, fourth-year digital media management major Theresa Marzullo considers the parameters to be extremely strict, making it difficult for students.
Marzullo currently qualifies for the Excelsior Scholarship. Marzullo used the scholarship benefits her second-year, however, during her third-year she had her benefits taken away and qualified again in her last year.
“I think that tuition should be free to everyone in the SUNY system and I want to be included in that, but when it comes down to it, they should be looking at assets,” Marzullo said. “Just because someone’s income is higher, they could have a larger amount of debt.”