Within news networks, the Excelsior Scholarship is being hailed as the free tuition program for New York public universities. Many students are celebrating the fact that they will now attend school for free.
While at face value it may seem like a huge benefit for CUNY students, there are many rules that are not being discussed when it comes to the program that are major points of concern.
To review, the scholarship is what is commonly referred to as a “last dollar” award. This means that students are required to deplete all other funding sources, like the Tuition Assistance Program and Pell Grants, before receiving this award. The money a student receives from Excelsior would cover the remaining balance of their tuition bill.
The scholarship cannot be used for books, living expenses or other student fees as it is purely a tuition scholarship. In order to qualify for the scholarship, students must also take a full-time course load of 30 credits per academic year, which includes summer and winter sessions. This scholarship means that qualifying students can no longer be considered full-time students if they take 12 credits per academic semester.
Only an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 CUNY students will initially qualify for the program. For those who do, there are strict rules to keep the award. If, at any point, during their time in school they do not meet the requirements, they are dropped from the program and the money they received previously will turn into student loans.
Additionally, after graduation, students must remain in New York for the equivalent number of years they received the scholarship. If these students relocate without the cause of extreme circumstances, the money they received will also turn into student loans.
The number of qualifying students is low because the program currently targets a more traditional college student who is not often found in CUNY. An overwhelming number of students at our university work full- or part-time jobs, hold internships and have many other obligations that prohibit them from meeting the scholarship guidelines.
Adding insult to injury for those who will not qualify, a part of the budget overshadowed by the passing of the Excelsior award is a $200 increase to tuition at CUNY every year for the next five years. This still must be approved by the board of trustees, but it is likely to pass.
The Undergraduate Student Government at Baruch College will be releasing a full breakdown and review of the program in the coming week.
Daniel Dornbaum is the president of USG. He can be reached at email@example.com. His office is located at 3-272 in the Newman Vertical Campus.