Possibility exists for an Excelsior Scholarship lottery

Posted at 11:43 PM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 23:44:25-04

Is the Excelsior Scholarship, the program that promises free college tuition to New Yorkers, going to cover everyone in who applies? Some private colleges say, no. 

A parent who attended a college night a St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute Wednesday tells WKBW Canisius College was relaying this message: funding will likely be insufficient to accommodate the 900,000 potentially eligible students across the state. They estimate only 1 in 3 students will receive the award for the 2017-18 academic year, with recipients selected by a lottery.

When we pressed Canisius on this issue, we were referred to a website that states:

"(The) Excelsior Scholarship program comes with both "fine print" and funding restrictions that mean students may be taking a significant risk in betting on "free tuition" to guide their decision about where to attend college."

With $163 million, the state is estimating the program will cover 200,000+ tuitions in the upcoming school year. That's just over half of the students enrolled with SUNY. 

If the system is flooded with more applicants, what would happen?


Investigative Reporter Charlie Specht asked Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul that question during a visit to Buffalo State College, Thursday night. 

Specht: They are out there saying only one in three for this year will get the free tuition and that the rest will be through a lottery system, is there any truth to that?
Hochul: No and I'm not sure where that came from, since this is our very first year. And I would also say, that they simply need to qualify and apply by June 7th.

Right now, it's impossible to know how many students will apply for this program. It's not entirely accurate to say one in three would be accepted without knowing how many would be enrolled.

But, there could be a lottery.

The legislation reads:

"In the event that there are more applicants who have the same priority than there are remaining scholarships, the president shall distribute the remaining number of such scholarships by means of a lottery or other form of random selection."