Understanding New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship

Because the State of New York recently amended the Excelsior and Enhanced Tuition Assistance Program, we’re updating this page.

Check back soon to see if you might qualify for an extra $3,000 state scholarship to attend Medaille College.

Understanding New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship

You’ve probably heard about New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship initiative to provide free tuition for students attending State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) schools. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan (effective fall 2017) is for New York residents whose family income is less than $100,000. (The income level for fall 2018 is $110,000. It tops out at $125,000 for fall 2019.)

While Excelsior highlights the crucial issue of college affordability, it is important to look at the fine print as you choose the best fit for your college experience.

It’s conditional.

Students who receive the Excelsior Scholarship must agree to several conditions, otherwise they lose future funding and/or the scholarship becomes a loan. Students must:

  • Maintain a minimum GPA
  • Take 30 credits per year that all count toward their degree
  • Graduate in four years
  • Agree to live and work exclusively in New York State after graduation

It’s unguaranteed.

The amount that the state has budgeted for Excelsior Scholarships and the number of potential applicants suggests that the majority of applicants will not receive an award. State executives have publicly stated that less than five percent of all students will qualify and receive an award. A lottery would then decide who receives the scholarships, suggesting that many eligible families may receive nothing. At this point, it looks like students will not know whether they will receive an award until after they’ve enrolled and started taking classes. Further, if a student receives an award one year, there is no guarantee that they’ll receive another one.


Here’s what you need to know.

At Medaille, we understand the importance of scholarships and grants. Medaille awards financial aid to 98 percent of its full-time undergraduates (as of fall 2016) and the average financial aid package in fall 2016 was $14,062. In total, Medaille awards more than $8 million in institutional aid per term.

The Excelsior Scholarship does not cover the costs of fees, room and board, textbooks, and travel expenses. Excelsior covers only the cost of tuition — not total costs. With the combination of existing government and college-based awards and scholarships, Medaille remains completely competitive on cost with all private and public schools under these new programs.

The mission of Medaille College is to educate and develop empowered individuals for academic achievement, career success and civic engagement, thereby contributing to a healthy, diverse democracy. We are committed to accomplishing our mission, while also staying affordable for students and their families. Affordability is important, but that’s just one reason Medaille stands out. Students often cite our small class sizes, practitioner faculty, strong support systems, successful Division III athletics programs, varied academic programs, and unique internship possibilities. At Medaille, students have the personal attention that only a small, private college can provide.

So how do you decide what’s right for you? Explore all of your options. Ask questions. Then, make a decision with confidence. Remember that we’re here to help. Contact our Admissions Team now to learn how affordable a Medaille education is, and why the private college experience might be the best fit for you. 

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