Excelsior Scholarship Program

Students from families earning $125,000 or less can attend a state-operated SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free.

  • Attend SUNY or CUNY tuition free! 

  • Adjusted combined federal household income of $125,000 or less

  • Pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college or university

  • Enrolled in full-time study (at least 12 credits per term)

  • Complete at least 30 credits per year

  • Live and work in New York State for a duration equal to the number of years you received the scholarship  

The application for the 2024-25 Excelsior Scholarship will be opening soon.

Award

Covers tuition expenses at a SUNY or CUNY college

  • Allows students to attend a state-operated SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free.
  • Is a “last dollar” scholarship. Any federal or NYS grants or scholarships, including PELL and TAP, are applied to tuition first and the Excelsior Scholarship covers any remaining tuition expenses.
Frequency

Annual

Must apply every year.

Duration

Dependent on the length of program

2 years for students pursuing their associate degree full-time.

4 years for students pursuing their bachelor’s degree full-time.

5 years for approved five-year degree programs.

Any award payment received may have tax implications. Please direct any questions to a tax professional, the Internal Revenue Service, or the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

Undocumented and other immigrant students: before submitting your application, apply for eligibility under the NYS DREAM Act.

To receive the Scholarship, you must meet the following residency requirements: 

  • You are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. AND
  • You are a legal resident of New York State and have resided in New York State for 12 continuous months.

Not a citizen or eligible noncitizen? Learn more about the NYS DREAM Act application.

High School, GED, or Ability to Benefit

  • Graduated from a High School in the U.S.; earned a high school equivalency diploma (GED) or passed a federally approved Ability to Benefit test. 

College & Program

Once in college, you must meet the following requirements: 

  • Pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University. 
  • Enrolled full-time in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward your degree program.  If you attended college prior to the 2024-25 academic year, you must have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward your degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship.
  • Continuously enrolled without any pauses in enrollment.  

Opportunity Programs

If you are in an opportunity program, the Excelsior Scholarship allows five years to complete your bachelor’s degree and requires completion of 24 credits each academic year.

Scholarship recipients must be continuously enrolled, full-time, at a SUNY or CUNY college.  A pause in enrollment is only allowable for the following reasons:

  • You experience the death of an immediate family member.
  • You are called to active military duty.
  • You interrupt your studies to take care of your newborn child (parental leave).
  • Your medical or health care provider determines that your medical condition or mental health prevents you from beginning or continuing the term or from continuing a full-time course load.
  • You interrupt your studies to provide care for an immediate family member who needs extra care due to health needs, as confirmed by their medical or health care provider. 

If you meet any of the above conditions, please reach out to your school to have your eligibility reviewed. Your school will notify HESC if it is determined that you are eligible to receive your award.

Circumstances other than those indicated above will not allow you to retain your award. 

Credit Requirement 

An applicant who is not on track to complete an associate degree in two consecutive years or a bachelor's degree in four consecutive years (which requires the completion of an average of 30 credits per year) can catch up on missing credits to become eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship.  Students initially deemed ineligible due to insufficient credits who then caught up on credits must reapply for the scholarship once they meet the credit requirements.

  • Your household combined federal adjusted gross income must be $125,000 or less.
  • You must be in good standing (a non-default status) on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any NYS award.
  • You must be in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by any NYS award that you have previously received.

Has your income been adversely affected due to a disability, divorce or separation of the applicant, parent or spouse or the death of a parent or spouse?

If you were notified that you are ineligible because your household federal adjusted gross income (AGI) is greater than $125,000, but your income was adversely affected due to a disability, divorce or legal separation of the applicant, parent or spouse or the death of a parent or spouse, you may be eligible to use your current income to establish income eligibility.  

To request a review of your eligibility, complete the Income Eligibility Determination Form and upload it here.

Recipients must agree to:

  • Reside in New York State for a duration equal to the number of years you received the scholarship, and, 
  • If employed during such time, be employed in New York State.        

For example, if you received the award for four years, you will be required to live and work in New York State for four years.

If you move out of New York State before you complete your residency requirement, all or part of your award will be converted to a no-interest loan. 

For more detailed information, please review the Excelsior Scholarship Contract.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, students with disabilities can take longer to complete their associate degree or bachelor’s degree and retain their Excelsior Scholarship eligibility if their disability requires them to attend less than full-time (30 credits per year, or its equivalent) or if they need to pause their studies due to their disability. 

Students with qualified disabilities who attend less than full-time must register with their college office for students with disabilities. 

Please note that neither students with disabilities nor students without disabilities can receive or retain an Excelsior Scholarship if they take longer to complete due to a change of majors or transfer to another college unless such change is a direct result of functional limitations resulting from the impairment that impacts the student’s ability to continue at the college or in the major. Specifically:

For individuals who have lost college credits due to a change in major or transfer of college, consideration for an award will only be given to students who provide medical documentation that clearly specifies that they (1) both (i) transferred to another college due to their disability or medical condition (e.g., the student must be cared for at home and, therefore, transferred to a college near their home) and (ii) changed majors, if applicable, because their previous major was not offered at their transfer college; or (2) were first diagnosed with their disability or medical condition after entering college/selecting their major, and their capacity to continue at that college or in pursuit of that major is or was limited by their disability or medical condition, resulting in the loss of credits.

Learn more about your rights under the Americans with Disability Act of 1990.

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