Free-tuition scholarship boosts interest in SUNY


Applications at State University of New York four-year schools and City University of New York institutions are up, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo attributes the boost to the Excelsior Scholarship, the first-in-the-nation program providing cost-free tuition at New York’s public colleges and universities.

SUNY institutions saw a 9 percent increase in year-over-year freshman applicants and CUNY institutions saw an 11 percent increase in applications.

“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,” said Cuomo in a news release. ”As we continue to help more New Yorkers achieve a high quality college education, we are helping to build the highly skilled workforce of the future, as well as the next generation of Empire State leaders.”

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 school full time and complete 30 credits a year, including summer and winter semesters.  

Students are required to maintain a grade point average necessary for the successful completion of their coursework, and the scholarship recipients are required to live and work in-state after graduation for a duration equal to the number of years an Excelsior Scholarship was received.


As of Dec. 22, 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. 

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.

This is an increase of nearly 11 percent from the 37,270 full-time freshman who took 15 credits or more in fall 2016.

The state’s 30 community colleges also reported an increase of 2 percent. 

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, “Since the introduction of the Excelsior Scholarship, more New Yorkers from middle-income households have the opportunity for free tuition, making a high quality college education attainable. Now, as we enter the second year of this program, we are encouraged to see a significant increase in the number of students applying to SUNY and taking that first step toward making their college dream a reality.”


Freshman applications at the City University of New York for fall 2018 rose to a record 50,546, a more than 11 percent increase as of Dec. 24. 

This increase follows a previous record 9 percent increase in applications in December 2016 from 2015, resulting in the largest-ever CUNY freshman class of 38,372 enrolling in fall 2017. Additionally, this fall, CUNY saw a 39 percent increase in the number of full-time freshmen taking 15 credits or more in their first semester.

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken said, “Students are seeing the tremendous opportunity and value that CUNY offers. We believe that Gov. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship played a significant role in the increases in applications, enrollment and credit-taking by enabling eligible students to attend tuition-free.”


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