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HESC Excelsior Scholarship Information

The University is pleased to announce that the State of New York, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the legislature, is taking a bold step in addressing the cost of college education and student loan debt by launching the Excelsior Scholarship.  This program is the first of its kind in the country. It will enable many New York State residents to attend a CUNY college tuition-free and establish a national model broadening access to higher education.

Recipients of this award must have a family income of $110,000 or less for the 2018-19 academic year, file the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) along with the TAP application, attend full-time, and complete 30 credits per year.  Awardees must also agree to reside exclusively in New York State and not be employed in any other State for a continuous number of years equal to the duration of the award.

The Excelsior Scholarship will be applied to each qualifying student’s financial aid package after all other aid, including TAP, Pell, City Council Scholarship, college scholarships and other grants or scholarships are applied.

Additional details about the Excelsior Scholarship will be made available once the regulations governing the program are finalized.  In the meantime, we recommend that you file the FAFSA immediately if you have not already done so.  Please refer any questions you have to the Admissions or Financial Aid Office at the college you will be attending.

Will I be able to attend college at CUNY tuition free?

You may be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, if you are an undergraduate who is a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen and reside in New York State for one year prior to enrollment and whose family’s adjusted gross income (as filed on your 2016 federal tax returns) does not exceed $110,000 and you complete thirty (30) credits per year. With the Excelsior Scholarship you will be able to attend CUNY tuition free for the 2018-19 academic year if you meet all these requirements and funding is available.

What are the credit requirements of the Excelsior Scholarship?

Students must be enrolled full-time (12 credits) and take thirty (30) credits per year toward their major, including summer and winter terms, in order to receive the Excelsior Scholarship. Students facing hardship are able to take fewer credits.

What are the general requirements of the Excelsior Scholarship?

An applicant must:

  • be a resident of NYS and have resided in NYS 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 110,000 or less for the 2018-2019  academic year;
  • be pursuing an undergraduate degree at CUNY;
  • 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;
  • if attended college prior to the 2018-19 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 NYS or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any NYS award;
  • be in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by a NYS award that you have previously received; and
  • execute a Contract agreeing to reside in NYS for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS.

Are continuing students eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship?

Students who are currently attending college are eligible to receive the scholarship provided they maintained full-time enrollment and completed thirty (30) credits toward their degree each year prior to applying for the scholarship.

How do I maintain my eligibility?

You will continue to receive the Excelsior Scholarship provided that you enroll full-time and successfully complete thirty (30) credits toward your degree in an academic year. Students who do not successfully complete thirty (30) credits per year can lose the scholarship.

How long can I receive the Excelsior Scholarship?

You are eligible to receive an Excelsior Scholarship for up to 2 years for students pursuing an Associate’s degree and up to 4 years for students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. Students in an undergraduate program of study normally requiring 5 years are eligible to receive the award for 5 years.

Can I get an Excelsior Scholarship award if I’m a transfer student?

A student who transferred between colleges is eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship provided they do not have a break in enrollment and are on track to complete their Associate’s degree in 2 years or their Bachelor’s degree in 4 years based on the number of credits accepted by their current college.

Do I qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship if I begin enrollment in the spring semester?

If you begin attending in the spring, you must complete thirty (30) credits by the start of the following spring term.

If I completed my Associate’s degree, can I receive this award to get my Bachelor’s degree?

Yes, provided the college that you are attending accepted all of the credits you earned while completing your Associate’s degree and you meet all other requirements for the Excelsior Scholarship. However, you will not be able to use the Scholarship for another Associate’s degree.

Are graduate students eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship?

No, they are not.

If I have an undergraduate degree, can I receive the Excelsior Scholarship to pursue a second undergraduate degree?

No. You cannot receive the Excelsior Scholarship to pursue a second undergraduate degree.

What is the definition of a New York State Resident for the purpose of the Excelsior Scholarship?

To be considered a NY State resident for the purpose of receiving the scholarship you must reside in New York State for one year prior to the term for which the scholarship is being sought.

Do the college credits I earn in High School (College Now and AP classes) count toward my thirty (30) credit requirement?

College Now and AP classes taken in High School will count toward the 30 credit requirement.

I do not have the equivalent of 30 credits per year  to be on-track for graduation, can I make them up to qualify?

Yes, a student who is not on track to complete an Associate’s degree in two consecutive years or Bachelor’s degree in four consecutive years (which requires completion of the equivalent of 30 credits each academic year) can catch up on missing credits to become eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship. If you successfully earn additional credits during a term or an academic year and get back on track to completing your degree on time, you will be eligible to receive an Excelsior Scholarship for the remainder of your undergraduate degree program.

What if I fail to complete the 30 credit requirement?

If you fail to complete the 30 credits over a 365 day period, the Excelsior Scholarship will cover your first term; however, you will be responsible for the tuition for your second term.  Since you will no longer be on track to complete your degree on time, you will be ineligible for the scholarship in the future.

Find out more about:

How much income can my family earn to be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship?

For the 2018-19 academic year, your federal household adjusted gross income can total up to $110,000 to be eligible and beginning in 2019-20 and beyond, your family’s adjusted gross income (AGI) can total up to $125,000.

I am receiving other grants and awards that cover the cost of tuition. Can I still receive the Excelsior Scholarship?

Students whose full tuition is covered by TAP, Pell Grants and other scholarships are not eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship

What is meant by the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)?

Adjusted gross income can be found on a federal income tax form. It is an individual’s total gross income minus specific deductions.

How is the income threshold determined?

The adjusted gross income (AGI) is determined by the income of the student, the spouse and/or parents where applicable.

How much can I receive from the Excelsior Scholarship?

An Excelsior Scholarship recipient can receive up to $5,500 from the Excelsior Scholarship, minus any amounts received for TAP, Pell, New York City Merit Scholarship or other scholarships. The remainder of your tuition charge will be covered through a tuition credit paid through CUNY.

What expenses does the Excelsior Scholarship Cover?

The scholarship covers tuition only for students pursuing an undergraduate degree and does not cover other costs of college such as room and board, books, fees, transportation, etc.

Will the Excelsior Scholarship pay for my tuition for the summer and winter terms to complete the thirty (30) credit requirement?

No.  The scholarship will not cover your tuition for classes taken in the summer and winter terms.  It will only cover tuition for the fall and spring terms.

How do I apply for the Excelsior Scholarship and when will it be available?

In addition to your FAFSA and TAP applications, students will also need to file an Excelsior Scholarship application. The application for the 2018-19 academic year is scheduled to open Monday, March 26 and will close on Monday, July 23, 2018. The application will be available on the HESC website at www.hesc.ny.gov. If you are already a recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship from a previous application period, you do not need to complete this application. You are a recipient if you signed and submitted the Excelsior Scholarship contract, even if you did not receive payment in the prior year.

This application is for students looking to receive a first-time award for the 2018-19 academic year.

Are there any other requirements that I must meet after I complete my degree?

Yes. You must live and work in New York State for the time period equal to the duration of the award received. You will be required to sign a contract with the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) agreeing to these terms. Failure to meet Excelsior Scholarship program requirements will result in the conversion of your award to a loan.

If I complete my undergraduate degree and leave New York State to attend graduate school does my scholarship, become a loan?

Your residency requirement will be deferred while you continue your education outside of New York State and you will have six months to return to New York State to begin fulfilling your residency requirement.

What are the credit requirements of the Excelsior Scholarship?

Students must be enrolled full-time and take thirty (30) credits per year including summer in order to receive the Excelsior Scholarship. Students facing hardship are able to take fewer credits.

Do I need a certain grade point average to get or to keep the Excelsior Scholarship?

There is not a GPA requirement for students to be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship provided they earn thirty (30) credits over the course of a year, however students will need to maintain a GPA that allows for the successful completion of their degree. Recipients should keep in mind that they may have other awards, which require academic standards that differ from those required for the Excelsior Scholarship.

I began enrollment in September and at the end of the spring semester I only have 27 credits. What can I do to fulfill the thirty (30) credit requirement?

If you attend the summer term and take 3 credits you will fulfill the thirty (30) credit requirement for the scholarship.

If I no longer meet the requirements can I regain my eligibility?

Generally, no, however there is an appeal process.

Will there be accommodations for students with disabilities?

If you are a student with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the program requires that you complete the credits attempted each semester to fulfill the requirement for on-time degree completion.