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. If demand outstrips supply as anticipated, eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship will be determined by lottery or “random selection” by the Higher Education Services Corp (HESC).
  • It is projected that funding will be sufficient to accommodate just 32,000 students of 940,000 eligible families, giving students a three percent chance of receiving an award.


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.


Expanding TAP would be a better approach
  • More than half of undergraduates who receive TAP at independent colleges and universities come from families earning income less than $20,000.
  • The maximum TAP award of $5,165 has only increased once in the last decade but private, not-for-profit colleges and universities have tripled the amount of aid they provide to students from their own resources since 2001.