When New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced his free tuition plan — the first of its kind in the nation — earlier this summer, Cornell students were poised to benefit from the new measures, but with a caveat.
With the passing of the budget for the 2018 fiscal year, the two programs — the Excelsior Scholarship and the Enhanced Tuition Award Program — have been given a green light and will provide a tuition-free education to around 210,000 New York State residents, Cuomo announced Sunday in a press release.
The residents will receive the assistance through the Excelsior Scholarship program, as well as the Pell Grant program and the ETA. According to the Cornell Office of Financial Aid, the Excelsior Scholarship will provide 2017-18 tuition aid for up to $6,470, which is the 2016-17 SUNY tuition rate.
For Cornell students, the Excelsior Scholarship is accessible to undergraduate students who are New York State residents and U.S. citizens attending one of Cornell’s land grant colleges, operated under contract with New York State.
Of the 102 students who applied from the University, just two were eligible for the awards at its three contract colleges affiliated with the state, according to The Journal News.
These colleges include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — including the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, which is shared with the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business — the College of Human Ecology and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Priscilla Blum ’19, a New York State resident and CALS student said she thinks that the Excelsior Scholarship is a great initiative on behalf of New York State, but wishes that students from every state and within every college had access to the benefits, especially given New York residents already receive reduced tuition to Cornell’s contract colleges, regardless of their family income.
“This new scholarship makes me feel proud to be a citizen of New York studying at Cornell,” Blum said. “It’s fantastic to give more opportunities to students, who may not have them at other universities. However, I imagine this could be conflicting for low-income students who have a passion for a topic not within a contract college. For example, if a New York resident wants to study government within Arts and Sciences, that choice could create a greater financial strain on the student relative to choosing a major within a contract college.”
The press release from Cuomo’s office explained how the Excelsior Scholarship will be implemented over the next three academic years.
For the 2017-18 year students with household incomes up to $100,000 are eligible. Eligibility increases until the program is fully implemented; the income threshold rises to $110,000 in 2018–19 and $125,000 in 2019–20.
There would also be an academic requirement for the scholarship in which recipients must maintain a certain grade point average and be a full-time student, completing at least 30 credits per academic year.
Additionally, the scholarship would require students to live and work within New York State after graduation, for the same number of years they received the Excelsior Scholarship.
If these residency and work requirements are not followed, the dollar value of the student’s aid will become loans that the student is responsible to repay.
While the ETA program operates slightly differently than the Excelsior Scholarship, it is also for New York State residents enrolled in undergraduate studies.
According to the Cornell Office of Financial Aid, when combined with TAP awards, ETA can provide tuition up to $6,000 to New York State residents who are also U.S. citizens.
However, this program is for students within private colleges in New York and only for colleges that choose to opt in to the program. Currently, Cornell is the only major research university in New York choosing to participate.
Because Cornell has opted in, students within the private undergraduate colleges who meet the criteria are eligible. These private colleges are the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, and the School of Hotel Administration.
Katherine Kropid ’20, a Wisconsin resident, studying within the School of Hotel Administration said she feels the programs may add to the disadvantages that non-New York residents at Cornell already face.
“I definitely wish that the program was available to all students,” Kropid said. “A lot of Cornell’s policies seem to favor New York State residents and it shows; the class of 2020 was nearly 30 percent New York residents, as compared to 9 percent from the Midwest. A big part of my Cornell experience has been meeting and working with people from all over the country and I think if the program was available to out of state students, the diversity of this campus would increase.”
In his announcement on Sunday, Governor Cuomo spoke on the necessity giving more students access to a higher education and making it financially attainable.
“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, in a statement. “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.
“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,” Cuomo said.
Kropid hopes that Cuomo’s announcement results in education policy changes in other states and increases the number of students who both see the importance in and gain the ability to access higher education in her home community in Wisconsin
“I think if my state adopted the same initiatives New York has that it would encourage more students to pursue higher education,” Kropid said. “In the Midwest, a lot of families view college as expensive and unnecessary and a lot of that comes from flaws in the federal funding system. As a result, a lot of kids from my town never went to school and instead work for their families, in fields they may not enjoy or want to make a career out of.”