Going to college is a goal for many, but the logistics differ for everyone. For some, attending college is a simple process — pay the tuition, and you’re all set. However, this is not the reality for most students who aspire to attain a degree. College tuition is extremely expensive, especially if you have to pay for living space and other basic costs.
But here’s the good news: financial aid exists to help students who can’t afford to attend college. If you’re a NY resident, it’s worthwhile to consider the Excelsior Scholarship. We’ll tell you everything you need to know, from eligibility to award amounts and more.
What is the Excelsior Scholarship?
As described by local news source WRGZ.com, “The Excelsior Scholarship, in combination with other aid programs, allows eligible full-time students to attend a SUNY or CUNY two-year or four-year college tuition-free.” Sounds amazing, right?
The Excelsior Scholarship program allows dedicated students to complete their college degree within a short time span. You should expect to attain an undergraduate degree within five years. Since tuition is free, thousands of students are granted the opportunity to attend well-known colleges and get a high-quality education. This way, you can accomplish your dreams without being burdened with a significant amount of student loans, which could lead to student debt.
Excelsior Scholarship Requirements
You may be thinking, “This all sounds terrific, what’s the catch?” As with every scholarship program, Excelsior does have requirements.
To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen and NY resident that has lived there for at least a year. You have to have a high school diploma. If your family earns more than $125,000, you cannot receive this scholarship.
The choices for which school you attend are also dictated — you have to be enrolled in an undergraduate program in a SUNY or CUNY college.
Yearly, you must earn 30 credits, and be enrolled to earn at least 12 credits per semester. If you don’t have a total of 30 credits by the end of the year, you will lose your scholarship, and you will not be eligible for it in the future.
Excelsior will cover the tuition costs for your first semester, but you will be held responsible for paying the second-semester tuition. In addition, after you graduate, you must live and work in New York for the number of years you had your scholarship.
It’s important to note that if you go against these requirements, your scholarship will turn into a loan. If these conditions don’t restrain any future goals, then Excelsior may be a valuable option.
How to Apply for the Excelsior Scholarship
The Excelsior Scholarship application process is very straightforward. You must fill in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for your school year using your tax information. After that, you must complete your New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) with the same tax information. Once you review all the requirements and limitations that come along with Excelsior, you can apply for the Excelsior Scholarship.
Once you are done with the process, you are all set and ready to await your award.
How Much is the Excelsior Scholarship Award?
You can get up to $5,500 from Excelsior. However, you first must use any other scholarships you have, such as a federal or a New York state scholarship. Excelsior will cover the remaining price of tuition.
Keep in mind that Excelsior only covers tuition fees and not room and board or textbook costs, for example. Also, should you wish to take classes in the summer or winter, those classes will not be covered in the scholarship.
Excelsior Scholarship and Other Forms of Aid
As mentioned before, to be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, your household’s federal adjusted gross income can’t be more than $125,000. You can find your adjusted gross income on your federal income tax form.
If you don’t know what an adjusted gross income refers to, it simply means your gross income minus certain deductions. If you already have scholarships such as TAP or Pell Grants that cover your full tuition, you do not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship. Applying to federal and state student aid programs can lighten the weight of your tuition tremendously, as well.
What are Post-Graduation Requirements for the Scholarship?
When you have an Excelsior Scholarship, you aren’t free and clear as soon as you throw your cap in the air. The Excelsior Scholarship does have some requirements for after your graduation.
You must live and work in the state of New York for as many years as you were under the scholarship. This may be a significant hindrance for you if you want to attend a graduate program in another state for an extended time.
According to CUNY, “Your residency requirement will be deferred while you continue your education outside of New York State and you will have six months to return to New York State to begin fulfilling your residency requirement.”
If you have any plans of moving out of state, you should probably rethink applying for the scholarship as well. You don’t want to have to pay back all the money you were awarded, so make your choice wisely!
Alternative Affordable Higher Education Options
Now is the time to take in all of your options and consider: do you feel comfortable making such a big commitment? If you’re unsure where your future lies, you may want to consider alternative options.
The University of the People may be a great affordable alternative, whether you wish to reside in New York or anywhere else in the world. The University of the People is an entirely online and accredited university that allows you to earn your higher education tuition-free. Plus, you can complete your studies from the comfort of your home, from anywhere in the world.
Excelsior or Not: That is the Question!
Now that you have a comprehensive view of what the Excelsior Scholarship provides and what its limitations are, you can take the time to plan out your future.
If you live in New York and plan to live there for many years, Excelsior may be a good option for you.
However, if you’re uncertain of where you want to go to grad school or if you’ll be able to follow all of Excelsior’s requirements, then you should look into more flexible higher-education options.