Applications for the Excelsior Scholarship, New York’s free college program, are now open.
FIT in Manhattan is just one of the SUNY schools New York residents can apply to under the Excelsior Scholarship's free tuition program. (Facebook/FashionInstituteofTechnology)

There’s good news for New York students attending or heading off to a CUNY or SUNY school this fall: Applications for the Excelsior Scholarship, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to offer free college tuition to eligible families, are officially open.

Signed into law by Cuomo in April, the program began taking applications Wednesday for tuition-free educations for individuals who earn less than $100,000 annually, or who are in families that make less than that amount. The amount will change to $125,000 in 2019. Applications close on Friday, July 21.

The maximum Excelsior Scholarship, $5,500, will decrease depending on other financial aid an applicant receives for an academic year, including a state Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and/or a Pell grant.

“With the launch of the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship program, the dream of a college education and a better life is now within reach for all New Yorkers," Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “A college degree has become a necessity to succeed in the modern economy, and this program is the ticket to greater opportunity and will help build the stronger, smarter workforce New York needs to compete in the global economy.”


What are New York’s Excelsior Scholarship requirements?

There are certain requirements potential students need to meet in order to be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship program. They must:

— Be a New York state resident for 12 consecutive months prior to the start of the term
— Be a citizen of the U.S. or an eligible noncitizen
— Have graduated from and received a diploma from a U.S. high school or passed a federally approved “Ability to Benefit” test designated by the commissioner of the state education department
— Earn a combined gross income of $100,000 or less
— Pursue a degree from a two-year or four-year SUNY or CUNY school, which includes community colleges and statutory schools at Cornell and Alfred universities  
— Enroll in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 successive credits each year toward their degree program
— Have obtained at least 30 successive credits each year toward their degree if they attended college before the 2017-2018 academic year
— Have a nondefault status on a state or federal student loan or the repayment of a state award
— Comply with terms of a previously received state award 
— Agree via contract to remain in New York for the length of time of the award they received

How to apply for New York’s Excelsior Scholarship

To apply for the Excelsior Scholarship, applicants will need:

— Copies of their 2015 New York state income tax returns, or those of their parents or spouse
— A current unofficial college transcript showing credits earned each year before applying if they previously attended college
— The Student Aid Report (SAR) they received when filing the completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Students need to complete the FAFSA or TAP applications, if needed, and the application for the Excelsior Scholarship at Applications close Friday, July 21.

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