Facts for Families about the “Free-Tuition” Excelsior Scholarships


This page will be updated regularly as more details becomes available from New York State.


Just 3% of students may qualify
  • “Free tuition” may not be available to all eligible students.
  • If demand for the program outpaces the available funding ($87 million in its first year, expanding to $163 million by 2019), the state will determine which eligible students receive an award. The decision of which students receive the scholarship may be by lottery or “random selection” by the Higher Education Services Corp (HESC).
  • It is projected that funding could be sufficient to accommodate just 32,000 students of 940,000 eligible families.


These new programs come with “fine print,” and strings attached
  • To qualify for Excelsior, students must attend school full time (30 credits per year) and be on track to graduate within four years.
  • After graduation, scholarship recipients must live and work in New York for as many years as they received a tuition award. If they break that commitment, the tuition grant becomes a loan that must be repaid.


More “fine print”
  • Preference in the lottery will go to students currently enrolled at the State University of New York (SUNY) or the City University of New York (CUNY)—not new students.
  • The “free tuition” plan offered by the Excelsior Scholarship Program does not cover room, board, or other fees that will continue to be charged to students who select a public college or university. These expenses average approximately $13,000, twice the tuition charged at New York’s public colleges and universities.