College Financial Aid Questions? New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship Program, What is It and How Does It Work

Also: Links to “Your High School Path to College Checklist. Applying to College-The Application Process, The  Excelsior Scholarship Program.  Answers to the question, What if My TAP and Pell Exceed Tuition Costs?

There’s a lot of confusion regarding New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship Program. Our hope is to explain the program so people who qualify can attend college tuition free. The process of applying for financial aid can be daunting with so many forms and deadlines. With the Excelsior scholarship program being rolled out this year, there are questions regarding who actually qualifies for the program and how does that impact other tuition assistance programs already in place.

So, we sat down with Rebecca Rose, Director of Financial Aid at Onondaga Community
College to get additional information on this new program. According to Ms. Rose,

The excelsior scholarship program announced through NYS gives students who meet certain criteria the opportunity to attend a SUNY school and CUNY school tuition fee. Of course, there are applications the students must submit, and there are income criteria and college credit criteria that the student must adhere by, as well as a work service agreement, if they receive the award. But, essentially it’s allowing students to attend SUNY and CUNY schools and have the tuition paid for.

The Excelsior Scholarship Program was introduced with a lot of fanfare by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Initially, people assumed that it meant free college for all and didn’t realize that it was layered over existing programs designed to provide college tuition assistance. Ms. Rose continues,

Rebecca Rose, Director of Financial Aid at Onondaga Community College

It was rolled out quite quickly, we first heard about it back in April. The applications became available in June due with a deadline of mid-July. We definitely have seen a lot of our students across the state applying for the award. We’ve seen quite a few here at OCC that have applied for the award and we’re busy adding the awards and scholarships to their financial aid packages. We are so excited to see that students attending OCC students are taking advantage of the program.

The initial application was due in mid-July for the students.  But the Students may have been asked to submit additional documentation to the state, before the state could pass their name along to the college. So that is still in the process of happening, so weekly the colleges, also the institutions, are receiving new students to certify so we’re not done yet for this semester and we won’t be done with awarding these scholarships for the fall semester until December. So it is an ongoing process.

At this point for the Excelsior Scholarship, information is scheduled to come out this month (October). We’re going to post information on our OCC website, we have a great section dedicated to the Excelsior Scholarship. And as the application becomes available we will make sure that is front and center with the dates and the deadlines. It’s very important that students meet these deadlines.  The deadline is very hard, so they may miss out on this great resource that could be available to them.

The student must first and foremost; they must complete an FAFSA Free Application For Federal Student Aid with the federal government the free application for federal student aid. That’s available now so if they’re not attending this semester and plan on attending in the spring. Please get that application in and on file now, because that is available.

Separate from the Excelsior, is going to provide any type of federal financial aid or funding assistance the student might be eligible for. We don’t want the student just to bet on one form of assistance, we want the students to take advantage of any type of assistance that may be out there for them, to help them pay for their college education. So, the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid), put that on file now.

In addition, NYS also has a Tuition Assistance Program, separate from Excelsior and that’s called the TAP program and that application is available now for this academic year, spring semester included. So we advise students to make sure that application is completed, and then when the Excelsior Scholarship is available, they would need to go back to the state and apply for the Excelsior.

The FAFSA and TAP application are requirements of the Excelsior, so if the student does receive full tuition through the TAP program they wouldn’t qualify for the Excelsior program. Because it’s for tuition only, for OCC students it will max out at $4,570 for the full year, because that’s our tuition cost.  So, it’s a combination of Pell, Tap and Excelsior and if the students PELL and TAP exceed the tuition they wouldn’t qualify for Excelsior.


For additional  information about Onondaga Community College
   and their various programs, including Financial Aid
click  Here. 

Please see links below for additional information on the following:

The College Application Process, Excelsior Scholarship Program, How to Prepare: Your High School Path to College, which provides suggested timelines for students from freshman through senior year.


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