The Excelsior Scholarship program, in combination with other student financial aid programs, allows students who are New York State residents, and whose families earn $125,000 or less annually to attend a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free.
To receive the Excelsior Scholarship, an applicant must:
- Submit the Excelsior application when it opens (only required for initial consideration; once the scholarship is awarded, the Excelsior application does not need to be completed again);
- 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 $125,000 or less (as reported on the FAFSA);
- Be pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college;
- 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;
- Execute a HESC issued Excelsior contract.
- Excelsior is a “last-dollar” award, meaning if a student is eligible for other financial aid assistance (i.e. a federal Pell grant, a state TAP award, a private or institutional merit scholarship) those dollars will be counted first against the tuition bill and the Excelsior Scholarship will be applied after all other aid is counted. If the amount of grants and scholarships exceeds the cost of tuition, the Excelsior award will be zero.
- The award cannot be applied to non-tuition costs such as room and board.
- The award cannot be used for summer or winter session tuition costs.
- Students who fail to complete an average of 30 credits within 365 days will receive the first payment (typically fall), however, they will forfeit the second payment (typically spring), and all future payments. Review of a student’s credit and determination of their eligibility to continue with the award takes place at the conclusion of the fall and summer semesters. The student will then be billed for the retroactive tuition for the forfeited term if the average of 30 credits have not been completed at the end of the 365 days.
Requirements to Maintain the Award
- Must attend college full-time, be enrolled in at least 12 credits per term, and complete an average of 30 credits per year (defined as 365 days). All credits must be applicable toward the degree program through continuous study with no break in enrollment. (Students are strongly encouraged to register for 15 credits per semester to maximize their ability to retain their eligibility for the program.)
- Can use credits earned during summer or winter terms to meet the annual 30 credit hour average requirement.
- Non-credit courses cannot be counted, nor can remedial coursework.
- College-level credits earned in high school (such as AP, College Now, SUPA, etc.) can be counted toward the 30-credit average requirement, and can be “banked” for use throughout the matriculated student’s studies.
- Bachelor’s degree candidates must complete all degree requirements in four years.
- Bachelor’s degree candidates who change their major may continue to receive the Excelsior award if they remain on track for graduation in 4 years. Double majors are allowed if this does not extend the time to graduation.
- Students are strongly encouraged to consult academic advisors and financial aid staff before withdrawing from classes, changing majors, or selecting courses not required for their degree to understand the impact that these actions may have on their ability to maintain the Excelsior award.
- Must remain in good academic standing (there is no specific GPA requirement to maintain the award).
- Repeat coursework can only count towards the credit hour requirement if the previously received grade is inadequate for the requirements of the major.
- Must complete the FAFSA and TAP application each year.
Note: Once eligibility is lost due to academic reasons, it cannot be regained.
Exceptions to the Guidelines
- EOP students must complete 24 credits per year and have five years to complete their degree.
- Students with a disability who are within the definitions of the American with Disabilities Act, and who have been in contact with the SUNY Poly Disabilities Service Office are exempt from the full-time attendance requirement, both the 12 credits per fall and spring semester, and 30 credit average per year. To maintain Excelsior eligibility, students meeting this criteria are required to complete all courses they are enrolled in each term.
- A temporary leave from school that might cause a student to fall below the 30 credit average requirement is allowed due to the death of a family member, a medical leave, military service, service in the Peace Corps, parental leave, or another reason approved by the Higher Education Services Corp.
- When the scholarship ends, a recipient must continue to live and work in New York State for the same amount of time the scholarship was received.
- If the recipient does not meet this obligation, the scholarship immediately converts into a 10-year, interest-free student loan that must be repaid.
- Students can get a residency requirement deferral for graduate school, a medical school residency or other undergraduate study out-of-state on at least a half-time basis, or if they can demonstrate extreme hardship as a result of a disability, labor market conditions or other circumstances. When the out-of-state academic program/obligation is complete, students must come back and work or reside in New York State.
Disclaimer: The Excelsior Scholarship guidelines are set by NYS and are subject to change at any time. Students should always consult with the Financial Aid Office to determine the impact of the Excelsior Scholarship program on their financial aid award.
For more information about NYS aid programs, visit the NYS Higher Education Services