Excelsior Applications Are Now Open: How to Get Your NY College Education Tuition-Free

Students have through August 31 to apply. Here's how the program works

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What to know

  • The applications for the Excelsior Scholarship in New York are now open; they let eligible full-time students attend a SUNY or CUNY two-year or four-year college tuition-free for the 2023-2024 academic year
  • Students have through August 31 at midnight to apply.
  • Some students who are undocumented or have a visa and meet the criteria for the Excelsior Scholarship under New York State Senator José Peralta's DREAM Act can apply.

New York State has opened applications for the Excelsior Scholarship that allows eligible full-time students to attend a SUNY or CUNY two-year or four-year college tuition-free for the 2023-2024 academic year, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

The scholarship is administered by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.

"The Excelsior Scholarship is one of the most promising programs in New York State, providing access to an affordable college education for thousands of middle and lower-income New Yorkers," Hochul, a Democrat, said in a statement. "At a time when economic disparities are widening, it is more important than ever that every student has access to the resources they need to succeed."

Students have through August 31 at midnight to apply.

The 2023-2024 Excelsior Scholarship application is open to first-time students entering college in the Fall 2023 term and current college students who have never received the Excelsior Scholarship. Students currently receiving an Excelsior Scholarship do not need to complete this application to receive continued award payments.

Here's everything you need to know about the scholarship and how to apply:

What is the Excelsior Scholarship?

The Excelsior Scholarship, in combination with other student financial aid programs, allows students to attend a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free. The program covers tuition for eligible SUNY and CUNY students.

Who is eligible?

For the 2023-24 academic year, families who earned $125,000 or less in the tax year 2021 are eligible to apply.

Students must also:

  • Be a resident of New York State and have resided in the state for 12 continuous months prior to the beginning of the term.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • Have either graduated from high school in the United States, earned a high school equivalency diploma, or passed a federally approved "Ability to Benefit" test, as defined by the Commissioner of the State Education Department.
  • Have a combined federal adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less.
  • Be pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University.
  • Be enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program through continuous study with no break in enrollment except for certain reasons that can be documented.
  • If attended college prior to the 2023-24 academic year, have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship;
  • Be in a non-default status on a student loan made under any New York State or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any New York State award.
  • Be in compliance with the terms of the service conditions imposed by any New York State award that you have previously received.
  • Execute a Contract agreeing to reside in New York State for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in New York State.

What happens if I meet the requirements for the Excelsior Scholarship but I am undocumented or have a visa?

Students eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship under the Senator José Peralta New York State DREAM Act can apply here.

What are the requirements?

Students newly applying for NYS financial aid under the provisions of the DREAM Act must first apply for eligibility under the NYS DREAM Act before applying for the Excelsior Scholarship.  If you have previously qualified under the NYS DREAM Act, you will simply need to update any prior year information that may have changed to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship.

Here is the complete list of requirements under the Dream Act.

Get more information here.

How much is the scholarship worth?

The Excelsior Scholarship covers any remaining gap in tuition expenses after other federal and state grants and scholarships are applied, up to $5,500.

To determine the award amount, the tuition rate charged is first reduced by the total dollar amount awarded from other student financial aid awards for the academic year, including an NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and/or federal Pell Grant. The Excelsior Scholarship covers any remaining tuition expenses up to $5,500. In instances where tuition expenses exceed the total financial aid a recipient is awarded, a tuition credit will be applied to the remaining balance.

Tuition rates are based on 2022-23 resident tuition rate charged by SUNY ($7,070) or CUNY ($6,930)

Note: Any award payment received may have tax implications. Any questions regarding this should be directed to a tax professional, the Internal Revenue Service, or the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

How can I apply for the scholarship?

The application is used to establish your eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship. If additional documentation is required, you will be prompted to submit it electronically to expedite the process.

To start the application process visit this web.

When is the deadline for the application?

Students have through August 31 at midnight to apply.

How long does it last?

A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship is eligible to receive award payments for not more than two years of full-time undergraduate study in a program leading to an associate's degree or four years of full-time undergraduate study, or five years if the program of study normally requires five years, in a program leading to a bachelor's degree.

Where can I find more information?

For more information about the scholarship, visit this website.

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