A message from Empire State College President Merodie A. Hancock:

I am sure many of you are aware of the significant and exciting action the state of New York recently took to make college more affordable through the creation of the Excelsior Scholarship. Legislation originally proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and passed in early April by the state Legislature will provide free tuition for certain students enrolled full-time at SUNY and CUNY institutions.

I applaud this action because it provides significantly enhanced access to public higher education for many of New York’s full-time students by making it more affordable, while also reinforcing the importance and value of degree completion. And it puts “public” back in public higher education.

But while we celebrate this groundbreaking accomplishment, it is important to note that certain restrictions in the legislation will prevent the vast majority of SUNY Empire students from being able to access the Excelsior Scholarship. While the majority of our students would fall below the maximum income requirements of the Excelsior Scholarship, more than 98 percent of our students would be ineligible because of the requirements for full-time study. Specifically, students must complete 30 credits per year and, if they have previous college credit, they also must have done that work in a full-time (30 credit hours per year) status. This simply does not define the hard-working, nontraditional students we serve.

The reality is that the needs of Empire State College students are not new and will not change dramatically as a result of this legislation. Our students will still face financial challenges as they work to complete their education, take care of families, serve our country, and earn a living. We will continue to support them in addressing these needs, as we always have done, by leveraging the variety of financial aid resources that are made possible by the philanthropy of our many generous alumni, employees and friends.

Please be assured I will continue to advocate aggressively for less restrictive New York state grant programs that meet the needs of our nontraditional students. While the Excelsior Scholarship may not benefit many Empire State College students, its creation has opened doors to new conversations about how to change state and federal financial aid systems to better meet the college funding needs of adult and part-time students. It is a big step in the right direction, and now we need to keep the momentum going.

I want to thank you for your continued support of our students and our efforts to expand college access and affordability to all degree-seeking adults across New York state and beyond. Because the Excelsior Scholarship will be available to so few of our students, your support is so important, perhaps now more than ever.

Merodie A. Hancock, Ph.D.
President, SUNY Empire State College

Information on how to apply for an Excelsior Scholarshp is located on the HESC website.