Excelsior Scholarship helps Queens students with free tuition

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gov. Andrew Cuomo enact the Excelsior Scholarship into law.
Coutesy of Governor’s office
By Naeisha Rose

The numbers are in and 53 percent of full-time SUNY and CUNY in-state students, or more than 210,000 New Yorkers, are going to school tuition-free through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, according to the head of state’s website.

The figures included students who were on financial aid, TAP and Pell grants. Some students will have the remainder of their tuition covered by the scholarship, as well.

Students who attend Queens College, Queensborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College and York College make up over 2,000 of that student body population, according to Elizabeth Bibi, a spokeswoman for the governor.

“A college degree now is what a high school diploma was 30 years ago. It is essential to succeed in today’s economy,” Cuomo said. “New York leads the nation in creating equal opportunity for all, and we will continue to work to ensure that access to a college degree is not determined by family finances, but rather is available to all who work hard and dream big.”

Of the four CUNY schools in Queens, most students fully covered under the scholarship are from Queens College (774), according to Bibi. Queensborough has 535 students on the Excelsior Scholarship, 494 are from LaGuardia, and 381 from York are fully covered.

Queens College President Félix Matos is excited about what the scholarship will do as he ushers in the new student body on a special anniversary for the school.

“Queens College is very pleased to participate in the New York State Excelsior Scholarship Program as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of our first classes,” Matos said. “Access to college is inextricably linked to the capacity to meet college costs. We look forward to serving the first generation of Excelsior Scholars to help their enhanced access translate into academic success.”

The largest number of incoming freshman fully covered on Excelsior also attend Queens College (224). Queensborough has 203 freshman, LaGuardia has 195 and York has 133, according to Bibi. Queens College has 176 sophomores, juniors and seniors on Excelsior, LaGuardia and Queensborough have 34 and York has 29 fully covered.

There are 1,136 freshman to seniors throughout the four schools who have a portion of their scholarship covered.

Cuomo’s plan comes in three stages. For the fall of 2017, students with families making up to $100,000 are covered by Excelsior. This will later increase to $110,00 in the fall of 2018 and cap off at $125,000 in 2019 into the foreseeable future, according to the governor.

The ranking member of the Higher Education Committee, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), sponsored a similar bill in 2014.

Despite being pleased about seeing the bill become a reality, she was disappointed Dreamers, or undocumented students under DACA, will not be able to utilize the scholarship.

“I can only hope that the success of the Excelsior Scholarship will ultimately guide my colleagues to passing a fully realized Dream Act,” Stavisky said.

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, immigrant children brought to the United States by their parents illegally without documents were allowed to attend school or receive employment so long as they had no criminal history and came here before they were 16, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Queens College sociology professor Amy Hsin was disenchanted, too.

“About 3 percent of our students are undocumented,” said Hsin. “They are some of the brightest, and they have to already overcome huge barriers.”

This may no longer matter, however, as President Donald Trump had announced in September the phasing out of DACA. Currently, 42,000 New Yorkers are under the program and there are 800,000 young people in it nationwide.

The Excelsior program is a feat for the governor, who many in the political sphere predict is considering a run for president in 2020. Within five days of the application process opening on June 7, New York received 21,000 applicants, according to insidehighered.com.

More than 23,000 of eligible students are on TAP, Pell and financial aid this year as well, according to Bibi. Almost 22,000 will have the remainder of their tuition costs covered by Excelsior.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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