Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Excelsior

Excelsior

  • free tuition.cuomo

    (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


    In January 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the Excelsior Scholarship, New York State’s “free college” initiative. About 20,000 students were awarded Excelsior in the inaugural 2017-18 year. In 2018-19, the number of scholarship recipients rose to 24,000, and for 2019-20, the Legislature projects an increase to 30,000, which will equal no more than 5% of the state’s public college enrollment.    

    The 5% figure is small compared to the massive hype that surrounded the

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  • gov cuomo excelsior

    (photo: governor's office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship is increasing credit accumulation and college retention rates, but the program still needs to meet more students where they are at.

    In 2017, Governor Cuomo embraced the “free college” movement championed by Senator Bernie Sanders and created New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship. Under Excelsior, students from families with annual incomes below $110,000—and increasing to $125,000 in fall 2019—can go to State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York

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  • cuomo excelsior

    Gov. Cuomo celebrates Excelsior (photo via the Governor's Office)


    The Excelsior Scholarship is a little over a year old, which makes it a good time to take stock. In October 2017 as the program launched, Governor Andrew Cuomo proclaimed, “Our first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship is designed so more New Yorkers go to college tuition-free and receive the education they deserve to reach their full potential." Now that the program is in its third semester, we can explore the program’s freshman year experience to assess its impact, successes, and struggles. Who has benefited

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  • Cuomo Excelsior Clinton LaGuardia
    Cuomo with Hillary Clinton, Gail Mellow, far right, & others (photo: Governor's Office)

    Dr. Gail O. Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College, contacted fellow City University of New York (CUNY) presidents to gather statements in support of the proposed Excelsior Scholarship program on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo, before the proposal was passed and signed into law earlier this year.

    Gotham Gazette

    excelsior scholarship academic

    Gov. Cuomo announcing Excelsior (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    In January 2014, Kellyn C. was 49 and had been recently laid off from a human resources position. “You need a college degree to remain competitive,” she said. She enrolled as a first-time freshman at CUNY Medgar Evers College (MEC) in Brooklyn. Three and a half years later, she reports, “I’m doing well. I’m applying myself and forging ahead.” She has 96 credits, a GPA above 3.0, and is on track to graduate in December 2017 or January 2018—all significant accomplishments at

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  • Cuomo Sanders Excelsior 
    (photo: Kevin Coughlin/Governor’s Office)


    Public university administrators and college presidents enthusiastically supporting a governor’s proposal to fund tuition for potential students is a situation that would normally invite little scrutiny.

    That picture becomes murkier when the university’s management has been a frequent target of that governor; is the focus of an expanding investigation conducted by the state’s inspector general, who reports to the secretary to the governor; and the governor publicly calls for greater oversight of

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