More Excelsior Scholarship stats arrive

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By Darren Johnson
Campus News

Since our last issue, more Excelsior Scholarship numbers have come in, which helps better explain how the funding played out at public colleges in New York this past semester. As well, the state says that those students who did not qualify for fall may qualify this spring — so if you didn’t get funding, try again.

In case you don’t know, the State of New York earlier this year rushed through legislation that is making going to a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free for many more state residents. There are some snags, but overall it’s a good thing, most agree.

Initially, it appeared that about 75,000 students applied for the money and less than a third were approved. A lot of people were up in arms over that ratio. However, the real numbers are much more impressive than that.

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In total, 45,281 got free tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools this past fall. True, of those, 23,250 got zero Excelsior dollars — they got full TAP/Pell aid instead and Excelsior is a last-dollar program, meaning students can’t profit from it.

That means 22,031 did get enough Excelsior money to zero out their tuition bills. Though, again, this is a last-dollar program so they may have only gotten a small amount of money. One college, we reported last month, had a lowest award of $7, because that student had the rest paid for by TAP/Pell.

Still, that means only a third of Excelsior applicants got truly bad news last semester. Perhaps their parents earned more than the $100,000 threshold. Perhaps they didn’t average 30 passing credits a year in previous years.

The seven CUNY community colleges reported that a grand total of 2493 students had their bills zeroed out by TAP, Pell and/or Excelsior. Only 1081 actually got Excelsior dollars.

The 31 SUNY community colleges had a better ratio — 9776 got free tuition; 5257 had Excelsior cover the balance.
CUNY four-year colleges saw 7869 students pay zero tuition — 3657 got enough Excelsior money to help. SUNY four-year numbers were 25,143/12,036.

Perhaps the disparity in ratios has to do with higher salaries downstate, thus more students didn’t qualify there because their parents earned more than $100,000 in tax year 2015.

Nassau Community College, which borders New York City, had a similar ratio as CUNY schools — 606 got free tuition and, of them, less than half, 283, got any Excelsior money. Erie Community College in the state’s Western Tier saw 299 of 477 the total get Excelsior money; about 63%.

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