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Cuomo: Free college tuition program generates 10 percent rise in applications at SUNY four-year schools

ALBANY, N.Y. — Applications at State University of New York (SUNY) four-year schools and City University of New York (CUNY) institutions increased about 10 percent for the 2017-18 academic year as a result of the Excelsior Scholarship.

The Excelsior Scholarship program provides cost-free tuition at New York’s public colleges and universities for students who meet certain requirements.

SUNY institutions posted a 9 percent increase in year-over-year freshman applicants received through SUNY’s application-services center and CUNY institutions received an 11 percent increase in applicants, the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release issued Tuesday.


By Dec. 22, 2017, SUNY received an increase of 9 percent in unique applicants for Fall 2018 through the SUNY Application Services Center, the primary processing center for the university system’s state-operated campuses, Cuomo’s office said.

SUNY’s 30 community colleges reported a smaller increase in applications of 2 percent.

In Fall 2017, 66,770 full-time freshman enrolled at SUNY, among which 61.8 percent, or 41,282 students, took 15 credits or more. That was up nearly 11 percent from the 37,270 full-time freshman who took 15 credits or more in Fall 2016.

“The Excelsior Scholarship opens the door to higher education and a brighter economic future, and this increase in applications is proof positive that students are seizing this unprecedented opportunity,” Cuomo contended in the release.

In the 2018-19 academic year, New Yorkers with household incomes up to $110,000 are now eligible to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship, reaching $125,000 in 2019-20. Students must be enrolled in college full-time and complete 30 credits per year, with flexibility to complete courses during summer and winter semesters.

Program’s effect on private schools

The Excelsior Scholarship has turned up the competitive heat on New York’s private colleges and universities, many of which have suffered declines in applications.

Some private schools in Central New York have responded by launching their own plans to offer scholarship incentives to attract students to their campuses.

For example, Cazenovia College plans to offer accepted first-year students, regardless of state of residence, merit scholarships totaling between $12,000 and $22,000 in a program the school is calling the “Cazenovia Commitment,” the college said in a Dec. 18 news release.

“Upstate New York is one of the most competitive higher education markets in the country given the number of colleges and the declining demographic trends for college age students. The Excelsior program was introduced midway through the recruitment cycle last year and made it even more competitive. Like many other small private schools, our enrollment was down about 10 percent,” Timothy Greene, director of communications & marketing at Cazenovia College, told BJNN at the time.

And, Le Moyne College and Hartwick College earlier rolled out scholarship programs for New York residents.

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