How does the NYS Excelsior Scholarship work?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - In 2017, Governor Cuomo announced a program that would help eligible students attend SUNY/CUNY schools tuition free.  It is called the "Excelsior Scholarship Program" and is open to residents of New York State.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly found that well over one-third of graduating seniors at Niagara Catholic High School are using the scholarship which will prevent the students from having to take out large student loans for the 2018-2019 college school year.

"My mom was so excited about it," said senior Robert Roggio, who is going to Buffalo State College.

"It is amazing because I can use the other scholarships that I got for books and equipment," added Tayllor Clark, who plans to attend N.C.C.C..

"It is a great relief because we were pretty worried about how I was going to take out all the loans to pay for it," said Teresa Buchner, who will be going to SUNY Fredonia.

The deadline for families to apply for the scholarship is July 23rd.

However, there are restrictions. 

The Excelsior Scholarship will not pay for room/board or meal plans.  If a student does not stay or work in NYS for a length of time after getting a degree, the scholarship becomes a loan that has to be repaid.

"It doesn't cover everything.  So, the federal Pell Grant and TAP (NYS Tuition Assistance Program) are really important still, as are the extra scholarships that the students apply for," explained Amanda Feron, Niagara Catholic High School's Director of Student Services. 

The Excelsior Scholarship covers any remaining liability after the Pell Grant and TAP awards are applied up to $5,500.  A tuition credit will cover any remaining tuition expenses that the Excelsior Scholarship does not pay for.  In addition, there could be tax implications for receiving the scholarship.  Since every situation is different, it is advised that you consult with a tax expert.

In order to be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, a student must be:

  • be a resident of NYS and have resided in NYS for 12 continuous months prior to the beginning of the term;
  • be a U.S. citizen or 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" test, as defined by the Commissioner of the State Education Department;
  • have a combined federal adjusted gross income of $110,000 or less;
  • be pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University;
  • be enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program;
  • if attended college prior to the 2018-19 academic year, have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship;
  • be in a non-default status on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any NYS award;
  • be in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by a NYS award that you have previously received; and
  • execute a Contract agreeing to reside in NYS for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS.
  • You can find more information about the scholarship and how to apply by clicking on the following link: https://www.hesc.ny.gov/pay-for-college/financial-aid/types-of-financial-aid/nys-grants-scholarships-awards/the-excelsior-scholarship.html
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