Details on NY's free college tuition program

Posted at 8:05 AM, May 26, 2017

New York State will begin accepting applications for its free college tuition program on June 7.

The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) unanimously approved the Excelsior Scholarship regulations in May.

The program awards a scholarship in the amount of in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in New York State.

State residents whose families make less than $100,000 per year will be eligible to apply for the first round of scholarships covering the 2017-18 academic year. After the first year, students whose families make up to $125,000 will be eligible.

The program requires full-time enrollment in either a two or four-year degree program.

Students who receive the scholarship are required to live in New York following graduation for the same number of years they benefited from the scholarship. Students who leave the state before fulfilling this requirement will incur a no-interest loan in the amount scholarship money they received.

In addition to these basic requirements, HESC approved some additional provisions to provide flexibility for students who receive the scholarship, including:

  • Allowing for the interruption of study and waiver of post-award obligations based on military service requirements
  • Allowing students to apply college credits earned in high school toward the 30-credits per year completion requirements
  • Prorating repayment of an award if residency/work requirements are not met, and making provisions for waiver/postponement of repayment in cases of extreme hardship
  • Allowing current college students who are six or less credits short of meeting the program’s credit requirements the opportunity to become eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship in 2018-2019, enabling them to "catch up" and qualify
  • Authorizing disabled students to attend part-time and receive a pro-rated award

A full list of the regulations can be found here, and a list of FAQ's can be found here.

HESC also approved the Enhanced Tuition Awards program, creating a scholarship program for New York State students who attend in-state private colleges and universities.

The income, enrollment, and post-graduation residency requirements for the Enhanced Tuition Awards program are the same as for the Excelsior Scholarship, but the former includes the additional requirement that the private college or university match the financial award.

Governor Andrew Cuomo estimates nearly 80 percent of New York families would qualify for these tuition assistance programs.