NYPIRG Introduces the Excelsior Scholarship
By: Victoria Ifatusin
A new scholarship has been presented to the College of Staten Island and the majority of CUNY schools.
The Excelsior Scholarship was implemented by New York State government officials, and NYPIRG began doing its research by asking students what they needed while they were in school, in the Spring of 2017.
Founded in 1973 by college students, the New York Public Interest Research Group, also known as NYPIRG, is known as a “statewide, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization” that has the main objective of engaging peers of all walks of life in civic society.
Of course, many students have experienced difficulties funding the costs of their education, from tuition and textbooks, to related costs like food and healthcare, according to the Excelsior scholarship testimony.
Thus, NYPIRG provided to solution for such students by presenting the new scholarship.
In a brief interview with Emily Skydel, the Higher Education Coordinator for NYPIRG, provided more information about this new “free money.”
Q: What is the Excelsior Scholarship?
A: Excelsior is a scholarship program that would be available to students who, one, enroll in at least twelve credits per semester, but earn at least thirty credits each academic year; two, remain on track for on-time graduation; three, agree to live and work in the New York State upon graduation for a certain period of time; and four, sign a contract with Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) to have his/her scholarship converted to a loan if the student fails to fulfill this requirement. Tuition rates for Excelsior recipients would be frozen at the 2016-17 academic year levels until the 2021-22 academic year and every four years thereafter, in which the tuition rate would be reset to equal the rate charged for the upcoming year.
Q: How do students of CSI benefit from this scholarship?
A: The program provides free tuition to students attending SUNY and CUNY two-year and four-year programs. When fully implemented, students with a family Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) equal to or less than $125,000 would benefit from this program.
Q: What are the qualifications for the scholarship?
A: Eligibility will be phased in from up to $100,000 in 2017-18 academic year, $110,000 in 2018-19 academic year, and $125,000 in 2019-2020 academic year and thereafter. But, the scholarship does not cover everyone and is designed to minimize costs for the state. The plan only applies to families whose income is less than $125,000. And not everyone making less than $125,000 a year would qualify. The Governor’s plan is a “last dollar” program, meaning it will only apply once all other forms of government aid have been applied. New York’s financial aid programs already offer tuition coverage for the poorest public college students. The program has credit and performance limitations as well; if a student doesn’t obtain 30 credits in one year, for example, they lose the scholarship and would likely be forced to take out a loan to pay for the credits they did receive.
Q: Is this scholarship available to transfer, out of state, international or graduate students?
A: The program is not available to international, graduate or out of state students. Transfer students are covered as long as they are in state.
Q: Will the scholarship have an effect on the Financial Aid package?
A: A student has to first fill out FAFSA and then whatever remaining tuition balance, if there is any, would be covered by the Excelsior Scholarship, if the students meets the qualifying criteria.
Q: For this academic year, is there a deadline?
A: The time to qualify in the Fall is June 7th to July 21st.
As mentioned in the Testimony, “A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship may receive up to $5,500.”
In order for the amount to be determined for a CUNY student, the resident tuition – which is currently up to $6,330 – “will be reduced by the amount of certain other student financial aid awards which an applicant has or will receive for the academic year, including a NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and/or federal Pell grant,” according to the Testimony.
Thus, the scholarship will fund the remaining amount of the tuition up to $5,500. “Tuition credit will cover any remaining tuition expenses not covered by the Excelsior Scholarship,” according to the testimony.
Along with the research that was discovered by NYPIRG, “a third of CUNY students reported not being able to register for a course they needed for their major. Of those students, half couldn’t register because there were not enough seats available.”
Due to the inability to apply for the classes intended for their major, waiting to pick a major may delay the process of accumulating 30 credits for the academic year, causing rejection of funds for a student who applies for or obtains the scholarship.
NYPIRG thus testifies, “To ensure that students are able to hold onto their scholarships, more funding must go toward expanded course availability.”
Following the inability to apply for classes, “textbooks, transit, food, and housing costs are barriers toward achieving a college degree,” stated NYPIRG.
According to the Testimony, “an analysis by Politico found that 10,362 CUNY… received the scholarship. That comes out to less than 1% of the student population.” This brought up the need for the scholarship to be “enhanced to offer more aid to needy students.”
The organization then mentioned that it “urges the Governor and the Legislature to agree to extend the Excelsior Scholarship to undocumented students.”