Excelsior Scholarship raises concerns for students

OSWEGO, NY — Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent Excelsior Scholarship is the first program in the United States to offer free tuition to four year public colleges. The program, however, has its setbacks, critics say.

SUNY Oswego Financial Aid Director Mark Humbert says the hard part for students who receive the scholarship will be keeping it.

“You have to successfully complete 30 credit hours per year and most of our students don’t do that,” he said.

SUNY Oswego currently has a 48% acceptance rate. Humbert says the Excelsior Scholarship will cause the rate of all SUNY schools to decrease.

“It’s going to make SUNY more selective, which in some way goes against our mission which is affordability and access,” he said.

The initial cap for students who qualify will be an annual family income of $100,000. By 2019, the cap will rise to $125,000. Humbert says many students will still need loans despite the qualification.

”The cost of college is more than just tuition,” he said. “The same students that might be eligible for this still are going to need their loans to help pay for room and board.”

Students eligible for the program must stay in New York State for four years after they graduate. If they move out, the free tuition turns into a loan.

SUNY Oswego student Asha Bey is a broadcasting major and is concerned if she ends up with a job outside of New York.

“I know there’s plenty of job opportunities in other states other than New York,” Bey said.

While she is hopeful about the scholarship, Bey believes the kinks need to be worked out.

“I just want a group of people to just go through it so we can see what is there or what we can expect,” she said.

The Excelsior Scholarship program will take effect Fall 2017.