AMHERST, NY (WKBW) — Who wouldn't want a free ride to college? New York State is offering it, but there apparently have not been a lot of takers. New York State's Excelsior Scholarship program offers free-tuition to any state-run college or university in the state for in-state residents. But only 3.2 percent of students are taking advantage of it. As 7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells us, the application window for the fall is now open.
"It was definitely like a blessing – sort of because going to college isn't that easy," said Nina Joseph of Brooklyn.
University at Buffalo freshman Joseph says all her tuition is covered by her excelsior scholarship. Last fall it was reported than more than a half of the 3-point-one million for the state scholarships went unused. SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson stopped by UB's North Campus in Amherst Wednesday She says this year the income eligibility for families will increase to 125-thousand dollars or less.
"So I think the message is - this is available. It's two pronged; one reduce debt, two get students out sooner," Johnson explained.
UB freshman Hunter Hinson also receives an excelsior scholarship covering all his tuition.
"I'm very happy because there's a lot of debt right no won students, so having the chance to minimize my debit is nice," responded Hinson.
Both Hinson and Joseph say excelsior is an incentive to make sure you keep up a certain amount of class credits and keep your grade point average at least a 2.0.
"It doesn't hurt to try. You might not get it, but a lot of us do get it, so you don't want to shut down any opportunity you might have to help you get debt or to prevent any loans you might have to take out to pay for tuition.
A little more than 20,000 students across the state received the funding to attend state schools. 1,400 hundred University at Buffalo students receive the tuition help.
SUNY Chancellor Johnson tells 7 Eyewitness News as the program embarks on the third year they will "continue to make it better."
New York state students have until August 14th to meet the deadline for the scholarships.