The free state college tuition promised in New York's new Excelsior Scholarship is an exciting prospect for many students, but some caveats of the program could come as a surprise. But many current SUNY students might be caught off guard by the new requirements.
Oswego sophomore Katie Short is looking forward to the implementation of the scholarship program. Free tuition, she says, is something that's been a long time coming.
“I’m for it, because they’re going to be paying for part of my tuition,” said Short. “So why not?”
And she's right -- probably. As a double major, Short is on track to meet the scholarship's credit requirements.
But SUNY Oswego financial aid director Mark Humbert is worried that many students expecting to receive the scholarship could be in for some unpleasant news.
“The students that are currently enrolled, it's kind of, not as great as it looked like it might be,” Humbert said.
He’s particularly concerned with the requirement that students complete 30 credits per year, which he predicts will eliminate many students who would be otherwise eligible. Students only have to take 12 credits per semester to be considered full time at SUNY Oswego, meaning full-time attendance won't guarantee you the scholarship. Humbert says the number of students in Erin's class who currently meet those requirements is low.
“Going into your senior year, of the students that came in with you, who are financially eligible for this, which is about probably 70 percent of the class, less than 10 percent of the class has completed 30 hours per year, Humbert said. “And if we look at it 30 freshman year, 30 sophomore year, 30 junior year, that goes down to about 50 students.”
That's because if students don't take 30 credits per year, they won't fulfill another requirement of the scholarship -- being on track to graduate in four years.
Humbert predicts the numbers for transfer students who meet the requirements could be even lower.
“You know how many transfer Excelsiors I think we’re going to give out?” Humbert asks.
Humbert makes a zero sign with his fingers.
“I just don’t think there’s going to be any,” he said.
The Excelsior Scholarship will be implemented in the fall of 2017. According to the state, students can begin applying for the scholarship June 7.
Two information sessions will be held for those who have questions about the scholarship. they'll be held at Cayuga Community College and at SUNY Oswego on May 22.
Erin Meyer just finished her junior year at SUNY Oswego