Make the Excelsior Scholarship ideal for all part-time students

The Editorial Board

The Excelsior Scholarship, established in 2017 by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has proven to be extremely valuable to many full-time students who fall within the $125,000 family earnings threshold set to receive it. In addition to the family earnings limit, recipients of the scholarship must maintain full-time student status in order to continue receiving funds.

Exceptions can be made for “students facing hardship,” according to the Excelsior Scholarship FAQs on the official CUNY website, though few details are readily available that clarify what exactly qualifies as “hardship” and thus who exactly can attend CUNY schools tuition-free while taking less than fifteen credits per semester. For students who are unable to complete the credits required to maintain full-time status, there are few scholarship options that can cover their expenses in full.

The Excelsior Scholarship is a last-dollar plan, meaning it only takes effect after recipients have completed applications for other grants such as the New York State Tuition Assistance Program and Federal Pell Grants. Part-time students are not eligible for TAP, and even those who receive the maximum possible award from a Federal Pell Grant may not get their full per-credit tuition covered.

At Baruch College, New York State residents must pay $305 per credit. The 2019-2020 Pell Payment Schedule, posted on the website of the U.S. Office of Federal Student Aid, reads that less-than-half-time students whose families are expected to contribute $0 towards their tuition can receive a maximum of $638.

Since most courses at Baruch are worth three credits, Federal Pell Grants often will not cover a single class in full. Since the Excelsior Scholarship is not intended for part-time students, it won’t cover the remainder of the tuition costs as would be the case for an eligible full-time student. Therefore, part time undergraduate students are forced to seek out alternative funding sources such as private, more competitive scholarships or take out student loans at a time when student debt is already at an all-time high.

While New York State has done a lot to increase accessibility to an undergraduate degree, there is still work to do in including all types of students, full and part-time alike.