Monday, March 13, 2017 - 13:29
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Andrew M. Cuomo - Governor

March 13, 2016 | Albany, NY

Statewide Support from SUNY and CUNY Leadership for First-in-the-Nation Program to Make Public Colleges Tuition-Free for Families Making Up to $125,000 Per Year Nearly 80 Percent or More Than 940,000 Families with College-Aged Children Across New York Would Qualify for Tuition-Free College at SUNY and CUNY Under Governor’s Bold Proposal

By 2024, 3.5 Million Jobs in New York State Will Require an Associate’s Degree or Higher; Innovative Proposal Will Help More New Yorkers Secure High-Paying Jobs of Tomorrow and Succeed in 21st Century Global Economy

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced statewide support for the Excelsior Scholarship Program from the college and university presidents throughout The State University of New York and City University of New York. The Excelsior Scholarship would make college possible for families making up to $125,000 per year, helping to alleviate the crushing burden of student debt while enabling thousands of bright young students to realize their dream of higher education at SUNY and CUNY. Under the Governor’s bold proposal, approximately 80 percent or more than 940,000 New York families with college-aged children would qualify to attend SUNY or CUNY two- and four-year colleges tuition-free.

"The Excelsior Scholarship will enable thousands of middle- and working-class students to attend New York’s world-class SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities tuition-free, and I am proud to have the support and partnership of these great academic leaders," Governor Cuomo said. "This is a critical step forward in our efforts to build up our workforce, remain competitive in the global economy, support the middle class, and create a more prosperous New York for all."

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, “The State University of New York recognizes the immense opportunity before us, and we look forward to seeing Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship program become a reality for our students. The program takes college affordability to a dramatic new level in New York State while also incentivizing college completion, a proven game changer in reducing student debt and positioning students for success not only in college but also career.”

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken said, "Governor Cuomo’s landmark Excelsior Scholarship Program is a bold initiative that will advance both individual opportunity and the state’s economic competiveness. Nothing is more important to success in the 21st century knowledge economy than quality higher education. The expanded access that the Excelsior program provides for lower income and middle class students positions New York as a national leader. CUNY students, their families and communities, and our state will benefit from this investment."

Below are statements from the SUNY Presidents:

SUNY Adirondack President Dr. Kristine Duffy said, “We applaud the governor for taking a strong stand on affordability. We look forward to working together to ensure the state's investment reaches the broadest number of New York students."

University at Albany Interim President Dr. James R. Stellar said, “The Governor's plan to provide free tuition to thousands of SUNY and CUNY students is a powerful endorsement of public higher education in New York State."

Alfred State College President Dr. Skip Sullivan said, “With Governor Cuomo’s tuition-free plan, we offer opportunities abound for more than just the wealthy. If enacted, this proposal will create a more widely-educated workforce, which would help communities to thrive across New York State today and for generations to come.”

Binghamton University President Dr. Harvey Stenger said, “We commend the Governor's efforts, which could benefit hundreds of thousands of middle- and low-income New Yorkers. At Binghamton University we strive to challenge students academically, not financially, and ensure that our costs enable students to start a career or attend graduate school without the worries of high student debt.”

SUNY College at Brockport President Dr. Heidi Macpherson said, “Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for recognizing the importance of investing further in public higher education in New York and for setting our state on a progressive course forward."

SUNY Broome Community College President Dr. Kevin E. Drumm said, “From a public policy level, the idea of free tuition is just fantastic. It would address so many cultural and economic challenges for both the state and individual families.”

University at Buffalo President, Dr. Satish Tripathi said, “At UB, our students receive a world-class education, graduate at a rate that far exceeds the national average, and they begin their professional lives with debt levels significantly below national averages. The Governor’s program will significantly expand access to SUNY’s outstanding institutions while also enhancing higher education completion rates for New York students."

SUNY Buffalo State College President Dr. Katherine S. Conway-Turner: “We at Buffalo State are keenly aware of the power of a college degree to advance social mobility and transform the lives of students and their families. Many students across the State struggle to complete degrees due to economic pressures, and Governor Cuomo’s free tuition plan will provide more New Yorkers with a path to a brighter future.”

SUNY Canton President Dr. Zvi Szafran said, “North Country residents will directly benefit from the Governor’s new plan because more families will be able to afford to send their children to college, which will increase opportunities for their futures, since the gap between salaries for those with a high school diploma and those with a college degree has never been higher.”

Cayuga Community College President Dr. Brian M. Durant said, “We commend Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship Program to help New York students access the financial resources needed to secure a college education.”

Clinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale said, “We thank Governor Cuomo for making New York State stronger by helping make education accessible to all. The Excelsior Scholarship Program would make a big difference in the ability of Clinton County residents to get an education.”

SUNY Cobleskill President Dr. Marion Terenzio said, “As a member of the SUNY System, we strongly support the Governor’s plan for college affordability. Improved access to higher education, full-time enrollment, and college completion are top priorities at SUNY Cobleskill. We applaud this forward-looking proposal.”

Columbia-Greene Community College President James Campion said, "Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship brings higher education in New York within the reach of our citizens.”

Corning Community College President Dr. Katherine P. Douglas said,  "I applaud the Governor's Excelsior Scholarship proposal. It couples one of our students' primary issues -- college affordability -- with New York's renewed commitment to invest in public higher education.”

SUNY Cortland President Dr. Erik J. Bitterbaum said, "SUNY Cortland welcomes the vision of Gov. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship proposal as a way to further expand access to higher education for hard-working New York families and ease the growing debt burden shadowing many students. This ambitious plan fits well with our College’s mission to help students from all economic backgrounds realize their educational goals.  In our experience, higher education transforms lives, lifts families out of poverty and serves as one of New York’s greatest economic assets."

SUNY Delhi President Dr. Michael R. Laliberte said, “We know that the single greatest factor impacting student retention and completion at SUNY Delhi is financial need. Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program will help eliminate the pressure that student debt puts on our middle income students and families and allow them to focus on achieving their dreams and becoming immediate contributors to our global economy.”

SUNY Downstate Medical Center Officer-in-Charge Dr. Michael Lucchesi said, “We strongly support Governor Cuomo's Excelsior scholarship program. More than 80 percent of our students enter at the graduate level, and many carry high levels of debt from their undergraduate years. We also know that many potential students are dissuaded from following their dream of becoming a physician or healthcare professional because of concern about debt.”

Dutchess Community College President Dr. Pamela Edington said, “The Excelsior Scholarship is a testament to the importance of higher education in New York State and the Governor’s confidence in the SUNY system. Enhanced tuition support should ease work and financial burdens for students, and increase affordability, access, retention and completion.”

SUNY Empire State College President Dr. Merodie A. Hancock said, "Governor Cuomo’s proposal for tuition-free attendance for CUNY and SUNY students, as a way to increase degree completion and reduce student debt, has dramatically changed the conversation about public higher education in New York and across the nation."

SUNY-ESF President Dr. Quentin Wheeler said, “We welcome the Governor’s leadership in breaking down the barriers creating hardship for middle-class New York families. This proposal is about making higher education accessible and affordable, and providing assistance to students in completing their degrees so they can move on to careers or graduate schools.”

Erie Community College President Jack Quinn said, “Here at ECC, we're always looking for ways to extend an affordable education to as many students as possible. This is the focus of Governor Cuomo's plan, and we applaud him for his ongoing and ambitious efforts.”

Farmingdale State College President Dr. John S. Nader said, “We welcome the governor’s focus on college affordability. For working families, few issues are more important.”

Fashion Institute of Technology President Dr. Joyce F. Brown said, “Governor Cuomo's Excelsior Scholarship provides a transformative vision for students throughout New York by recognizing the critical value of higher education and delivering unprecedented access and career pathways to students. By enhancing the possibilities for degree completion, this program will be a major contributing force to greater economic success for generations to come.”

Finger Lakes Community College President Dr. Robert K. Nye said, “Education improves lives; it’s that simple. So we support the Governor’s intention in making public higher education more accessible for New York.”

SUNY Fredonia President, Dr. Virginia Horvath said, “The Governor’s proposal represents a major development in public education and sets a precedent that other states are bound to follow. I look forward to a day when universal higher education is as normal as public high school, and New Yorkers will be able to say, ‘we were the first.’”

Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger said, “We are always interested in discussing how we can help those in need attain a degree in higher education. We appreciate the Governor looking to SUNY to help with his mission to educate New York.”

Genesee Community College President Dr. James M. Sunser said, “Education is the single biggest influencer on social and economic advancement and Governor Cuomo's interest in supporting New Yorkers to achieve a college education is to be commended.”

SUNY Geneseo President Dr. Denise A. Battles said, “SUNY Geneseo has a long tradition of offering an excellent and affordable liberal arts education and we are excited at the prospect of expanding access to our outstanding academic experience through Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program.”

Herkimer Community College President Dr. Cathleen C. McColgin said, “Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program supports the mission of Herkimer County Community College, which is in part, to provide our learners with high quality, accessible educational opportunities and services. We applaud the Governor’s commitment to expand access to higher education, reduce student loan debt, and enhance student success.”

Hudson Valley Community College President Dr. Andrew Matonak said, “In many ways, college is the gateway to a brighter future for our students, communities, and economies. Investing in our State’s human capital and providing this unprecedented opportunity for students to achieve a college degree or certificate – tuition free – will have myriad benefits.”

Jamestown Community College President Dr. Cory Duckworth said, “It is very encouraging to see the Governor advocating so powerfully for the importance of higher education. Jamestown Community College provides an exceptional opportunity for individuals to enhance their entire life experience by gaining knowledge and meaningful college credentials. The Excelsior Scholarship can be a strong incentive in achieving these ends.”

Jefferson Community College President, Dr. Carole A. McCoy: “Completing a college degree transforms lives and transforms communities. Increasing financial support for students through the Excelsior Scholarship is an important part of making this a reality.”

SUNY Maritime College President Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis said, “Too many New Yorkers, especially here in the Bronx, never earn a college degree, not because they lack talent, but because they lack financial support. Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior scholarship program will give these men and women a chance to change their lives and the lives of those around them. I applaud his vision.”

Mohawk Valley Community College President Dr. Randall VanWagoner said, “The Governor’s proposal highlights the critical importance of an educated citizenry to the future of New York State. While the details of this proposal will be shaped through the budget process, this initial signal of new investment in public higher education in New York is very encouraging.”

Monroe Community College President Dr. Anne M. Kress said, "Governor Cuomo’s plan will ensure that New Yorkers no longer see affordability as a barrier to accessing high quality higher education. The truth of the matter is that only 1 percent of jobs created today go to high school graduates; a post-secondary credential is required to enter the workforce. With the Excelsior Scholarship Program, New York’s next generation of scientists, educators, health care professionals, innovators and makers will all have the opportunity to obtain the education they need to leave their mark and make New York stronger than ever before.”

SUNY Morrisville President Dr. David E. Rogers said, “Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship Program will foster increased investment in the very knowledge and skills required to support New York’s dynamic and evolving economy. This proposal will enhance access and reduce debt, and make a college education more attractive and achievable for potential students and their families.”

Nassau Community College President Dr. W. Hubert Keen said, “College affordability is a critical issue for our students, and we applaud Governor Cuomo’s emphasis on this important topic.”

SUNY New Paltz President Dr. Donald P. Christian said, “The Excelsior Scholarship Program’s goals of increasing college affordability and completion for low- and middle-income students and families is laudable, and could help more students gain access to high-quality public higher education in New York.”

Niagara County Community College President Dr. James P. Klyczek said, “We support all the efforts of the Governor to increase funding for higher education. All students need support. Community colleges open the doors to a brighter future for families who will have the opportunity to earn degrees that lead to jobs with family-sustaining incomes. Education improves our families and our communities.”

North Country Community College President Dr. Steve Tyrell said, “We applaud the Governor’s desire to support public education and middle income families in the State of New York.”

SUNY Old Westbury President Dr. Calvin O. Butts said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo as his idea for free tuition is an excellent one. No educator wants to see his or her student saddled with debt. Offering Excelsior Scholarships, along with other much-needed supports to ensure the quality of our public colleges and universities, can contribute to an ever-stronger New York.”

SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski said, “The Governor’s proposal would broaden access to higher education and allow new graduates to focus first on building their careers instead of repaying loans. All New Yorkers deserve the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills to thrive in a 21st Century marketplace.”

Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill said, “Since their inception more than a century ago, community colleges have always supported broad access for all to higher education. The Governor’s program would provide college students the financial access to higher education so they can improve their lives without being burdened by years of suffocating debt from college loans.”

SUNY College of Optometry President Dr. David A. Heath said, “By tackling skyrocketing undergraduate costs, New York State is, in essence, both protecting the next generation from crippling education-related debt and providing increased freedom of career choice. Students will be less likely to compromise their academic aspirations due to perceived or real economic concerns.”

SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young said, “More than ever, our State and nation need an enlightened citizenry. While we usually, and not incorrectly, link a strong education to well-paying jobs, we should not overlook the importance of a broad, general education and honed critical thinking skills, both of which are necessary to live fulfilling lives and to participate fully in our democracy. At SUNY we have a commitment to educational opportunity and access, and Governor Cuomo is smartly challenging us to extend our mission to ensure a vibrant future.”

SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley said, “SUNY Oswego is very committed to increasing access to talented students and this scholarship program helps expand access to many more deserving students. With support from the legislature, we can provide a high quality, affordable threshold to a prosperous and satisfying future for many more New Yorkers. We are ready to move forward."

SUNY Plattsburgh President Dr. John Ettling said, “Governor Cuomo's Excelsior Scholarship Program can greatly help low- and middle-income students and families in the North Country. Such steps to address college affordability, when joined with incentives for full-time enrollment and degree completion, make for a solid investment in the region and our collective future.”

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Interim President Dr. Bahgat Sammakia said, “SUNY Poly applauds Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make our State college system tuition-free for thousands of New York families, and to give the hope that comes with the education, skills, and experience a SUNY degree provides. We enthusiastically look forward to the many students who will be able to join the ranks of institutions like SUNY Poly thanks to this plan, and the difference they will make in the world because of it.”

SUNY Potsdam President Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg said, “I strongly support Governor Cuomo’s transformative vision for making public higher education tuition-free for thousands of middle class New York families. This groundbreaking proposal has the potential to make the goal of earning a degree in any one of SUNY Potsdam’s 40-plus majors not only affordable, but achievable, for students and families from across the state.”

Purchase College President Thomas J. Schwarz said, “Purchase College commends the Governor for strengthening his commitment to public higher education and supports all initiatives that increase access, affordability, and completion. It is vital that we provide students with all the educational opportunities they will need to succeed. We look forward to working with the Governor and remain dedicated to providing the highest quality education in the liberal arts, sciences, and performing and visual arts.”

Rockland Community College President Dr. Cliff L. Wood said, “Support for public education is more crucial now than ever. We appreciate the Governor’s efforts through the Excelsior plan to ensure accessibility to higher education to the widest possible segment of our population.”

Schenectady County Community College President Dr. Steady Moono said, “This program has a potential to become a critical game-changer for a good percentage of our students where college is out of reach.”

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make public higher education more affordable for families in need, his focus on the academic excellence of New York’s public higher education sector, and his emphasis on the importance of completion. It is also important to maintain the quality of our public institutions as we increase access, so we are hopeful that any aid strategy be coupled with the predictable tuition methodology proposed by SUNY and/or a base increase for the campuses.”

Suffolk County Community College President Dr. Shaun L. McKay said, “Access to higher education for all New York families is a laudable goal. We look forward to learning more about the Excelsior Scholarship Program details and how it can help Suffolk County Community College students achieve their dreams.”

Sullivan County Community College Interim President Jay Quaintance said, “Linking college affordability to completion by having the state cover the cost of tuition for full-time students in public colleges and universities is a bold move by Governor Cuomo. SUNY Sullivan looks forward to working to ensure that our students are able to make the most of this game-changing initiative.”

Tompkins Cortland Community College President Dr. Carl E. Haynes said, “The concept of the Governor’s proposal has great potential. Hopefully the Governor will work with the legislature to make this a meaningful opportunity for our neediest students.”

SUNY Ulster President Dr. Alan P. Roberts said, “We are pleased that the Governor's proposal focuses on public higher education and accessibility. SUNY Ulster looks forward to the opportunity to support this initiative with the hope that it will assist as many students as possible as we work together to continue our responsibility of changing lives through education.”

SUNY Upstate Medical University President Danielle Laraque-Arena said, “Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship program will increase access for many to careers throughout the State, especially in the health professions, where the employment outlook is excellent. I applaud the governor for his vision and support of public higher education.”

Westchester Community College President Dr. Belinda S. Miles said, “As more students enter community colleges and complete their studies, they will be positioned to transition to four-year institutions and the workplace where there is a need to fill openings in growing fields such as healthcare, analytics, and information technology. Directing new financial resources to talent development in New York is a necessary investment that will reap benefits locally, regionally, and nationally.”

Below are statements from the CUNY presidents:

Michelle J. Anderson, President of Brooklyn College, said, "Governor Cuomo's Excelsior Scholarship proposal has jump-started an important conversation across New York State about college affordability, student debt, and timely graduation. It represents a critical commitment to our future. A college education gives students better life outcomes, including enhanced opportunities for meaningful work and leadership in their communities. We welcome state support that opens our doors to more students, encourages them to stay in school, and helps them graduate in a timely fashion.”

David Gómez, President of Hostos Community College, said, “The Excelsior Scholarship expands the opportunities for New York City students to have access to higher education. A recent study confirms that higher education is attributed to the social mobility of students and such a proposal by Governor Cuomo offers that chance to our students.”

Jennifer Raab, President of Hunter College, said, “The Excelsior Scholarship is an incredible investment in the future of our State and our Country. There is nothing more important that ensuring that students and their families understand that college is possible. The Excelsior Scholarship will reward the strivers and help them achieve their dreams. The single thing wrong is that it should be named the Cuomo Vision scholarship, because it changes the trajectory of New York now and for future generations.”

Rudy Crews, President of Medgar Evers College, said, “Roughly 40 percent of Medgar Evers’ students needed $500 to $1,000 to finish their degrees and graduate. The Governor’s proposal for the Excelsior Scholarship means “one less thing to worry about.” This is a game of margin for them.”

Scott Evenbeck, President of Guttman Community College, said, "It has never been more important to increase student access and success in college.  There is growing attention to the importance of financial support for students in increasing their educational attainment. I believe the proposed Excelsior Scholarships will make an important difference for our students and their families and for our city and state."

Farley Herzek, President of Kingsborough Community College, said, “We deeply appreciate every opportunity there is to mitigate the financial challenges of attending college and the Governor’s plan does just that. I believe that access to higher education should be looked at as a “civil right”.  Without it, there is little chance of access to middle class and above.  I spent many years in California connecting higher education to business and industry.  It is imperative we provide opportunities to unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers and provide them with the skills and experiences needed to gain entry into local and regional jobs.  Approximately 40% of Kingsborough Community College students come from households with incomes less than $20,000 a year.”

William Fritz, President of College of Staten Island, said, "I join CUNY Chancellor James Milliken in his strong support of Governor’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship Program.  Already 8 in 10 CUNY students graduate debt-free, with more than 66% of full-time undergraduates attending tuition-free. The Excelsior tuition-free program extends the reach of CUNY’s value by making college a reality for New York’s middle-class, guaranteeing the opportunity for excellence for many more New Yorkers. The program will be especially helpful to the Borough of Staten Island with a larger proportion of residents in the income range targeted by the scholarship than other areas of the City.”

Jose Luis Cruz, President of Herbert H. Lehman College, said, "To preserve our democratic ideals, secure our nation, and compete in the global economy, we must significantly improve postsecondary educational attainment. And because of current demographic and economic shifts, the only way we can do this is by ensuring quality higher education options are accessible and affordable to all members of our increasingly diverse citizenry.  Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship Program is a most welcomed step in the right direction.  Excelsior Scholarships will not only impact the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, but also set the state on a path for national leadership in the implementation of financial aid policies designed to expand access, increase completion rates, reduce the time to graduation, and eradicate intergroup achievement gaps."

Russell Hotzler, President of NYC College of Technology, said, "Governor Cuomo's proposed Excelsior Scholarship represents a bold move at a time when such boldness is needed. The governor's Excelsior Scholarship Program will provide a tuition-free CUNY education for students in families with an income up to $125,000. Free public college tuition was once a reality in New York City, and the Governor's proposal shows how it can again be free and serve as a force to develop a stronger, more productive, and better prepared workforce. City Tech is an exemplar in providing the STEM-related workforce preparation required by New York's technically oriented businesses and industries and the Excelsior Scholarship program and its credit completion requirements will help keep STEM students on target for timely graduation with minimal student debt. New York's parents have been caught between slowly rising salaries and the rapidly rising cost of education, reducing their ability to provide their children with the resources necessary to fulfill the American dream – the Excelsior Scholarship Program will go a long way towards addressing this dilemma."

Dr. Diane B. Call, President of Queensborough Community College, said, “I support Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship program because expanding access to higher education will open the doors of opportunity for New York's hardest working and most deserving students. New York’s workforce – and economy – will be stronger because of improved access to community college education.”

Felix Matos-Rodriguez, President of Queens College, said, “The Excelsior Scholarship program will make a first-rate CUNY and Queens College education a real possibility for thousands of New Yorkers.  New York State is again at the forefront of a movement that will make the things we know a college education provides – social mobility, increased earnings over time, analytical and communication skills, and increased civic engagement—accessible and free from the burden of student loan debt.”

Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said, “Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program represents a nationally important statement about the importance of public higher education to the future of our communities.  By making it possible for thousands of young people to attend high quality universities and graduate without crushing student debt, the Excelsior Scholarship program is an investment in their future.  The return on the investment will be enormous, far outweighing the cost of the scholarship, as these college graduates add to the economic growth of our state.”

Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, said, “Some actions are so important that they bend the course of history. Governor Cuomo’s game-changing vision to ensure a college education is possible for all New Yorkers though the Excelsior Scholarship is one such action. It is a bold and important move. If the entire country follows his lead, the future of America is stronger."

Thomas A. Isekenegbe, President of Bronx Community College, said, “I welcome the Governor’s commitment to making public higher education more affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers with his Excelsior Scholarship Program. Governor Cuomo continues to lead the nation with his unwavering dedication to equality, accessibility, inclusion and the right of all New Yorkers to a quality education.”

Marcia Keizs, President of York College, said, "I applaud the governor for taking an ambitious step toward addressing the affordability of public higher education in the state. With some modifications, such as flexibility in how students distribute the acquisition of the required 30 credits per academic year, it could be beneficial.  Most of our students are first generation college-goers and have many other responsibilities, even if tuition is no longer a deterrent. That said, this program is a step in the right direction."

Vincent Boudreau, Interim President of City College, said, "We are truly excited about the Excelsior Scholarship program. The effort to make higher education a possibility, without burdensome debt, for every New Yorker is a breathtakingly innovative move, and we are thrilled at the prospect of welcoming these students to our campus."