NYS Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Incentive Program FAQs

Eligibility

Who can apply for a STEM award?
The STEM Incentive Program is open to New York State high school students who graduate in December or June in the top 10 percent of their class, and who are planning to pursue an approved STEM program at a SUNY or CUNY college or university, beginning with the fall semester following their high school graduation.
Which New York State colleges or universities can I attend and be eligible for a STEM award?
Recipients can attend any SUNY and CUNY two-year and four-year colleges, as well as the statutory colleges at Cornell University (New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the New York State College of Human Ecology) and Alfred University (The New York State College of Ceramics).
How do I search for my intended major?
Consult the list of Approved STEM Programs of Study. Sometimes, colleges have different names for very similar programs. If you don’t find the name of your major on the list, you can contact your college to obtain the CIP code for your intended major. It may match one of the codes on the list, which means it is approved.
What if my intended major is not on the list?
If your intended major is not on the list, or the CIP code of your intended major does not match one of the codes on the list, you are not eligible.

If you believe your intended major should be considered for inclusion on the list, you can submit or your college can submit a Request to Add Program of Study. Forms received no later than October 15th will be considered for the following year’s Program application. However, there is no guarantee that programs will be added in a given year. Newly approved programs are added each January.
What if I don’t yet know what I want to major in?
If you have not declared a major, you can still apply for the STEM Incentive Program award. However, you must list an intended, approved major on your application. If you do not enter into college in an approved program of study, you will not be able to receive the award.
Do I have to know what profession I want before I apply?
While you don’t have to know what exact occupation you want before you apply for a STEM award, you should be aware that the service obligation for recipients must be done in an approved occupation.
Can I apply for a STEM award if I am unsure which college I will be attending?
Yes. If you have not selected your college yet, you can still apply. Indicate on your application a possible college you are likely to attend. If you ultimately enroll at a different SUNY or CUNY two-year or four-year college than that identified on your application, you may still receive the award provided you have enrolled in an approved program of study.
Can I apply for the STEM Incentive Program if I am unsure which college I will be attending?
Yes. If you have not selected your college yet, you can still apply. Indicate on your application a possible college you are likely to attend. If you ultimately enroll at a different SUNY or CUNY two-year or four-year college than that identified on your application, you may still receive the award provided you have enrolled in an approved program of study.

Applying

How do I apply for a STEM award?
To apply, students must first complete the online Web Application, and print, sign and return the Web Application Confirmation Page to HESC. Applicants must also submit a copy of their most recent high school transcript to document their grade point average, and have a school official complete a High School Verification Form which identifies they are in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.
Can I apply if I am already enrolled in a public college, and am in an approved program?
No. Students previously enrolled in a public college are not eligible to receive a STEM award.
When is the application period for the STEM Program?
The application period is open from October 1 through August 15 each year.
Where can I find the NCES code for the High School Verification Form?
A high school’s NCES code can be found using the “School Search” tool on the National Center of Educational Statistics website at www.nces.ed.gov.
What if my high school does not rank?
If your high school does not rank, the school must provide an explanation as to how it has determined that you are in the top 10 percent of your graduating class.
How will I be notified about my STEM award application?
Eligible applicants will be notified about their STEM Incentive Program award application by U.S. mail in late spring.
What should I do if I haven’t received any communications from HESC?
If you have submitted a complete STEM Incentive Program application with all required documentation to HESC and have not received a response within 4 weeks, contact the HESC Scholarship Unit at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to determine the status of your application.
Are there a limited number of spots available for the STEM Program?
No. Any student who is determined to be eligible and who accepts the Program terms, as outlined in the Service Contract, will receive an award.
I received a letter saying I am ineligible for a STEM award, and want to appeal. What can I do?
Applicants who wish to file an appeal may do so by providing written evidence or information that demonstrates why the initial determination was incorrect. Appeals should be mailed to New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, Scholarship Unit, 99 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12255, Attention: STEM.

Award Amount

What does the STEM award cover?
The STEM Incentive Program award covers the tuition cost of a SUNY or CUNY school. STEM Incentive Program awards cannot be applied to other educational costs such as fees, books or housing.
How does TAP affect my STEM award?
If you are a STEM recipient who will also be receiving a TAP award, TAP and other forms of tuition-only aid may offset the amount of the STEM Incentive Program award you receive. Eligible students will be awarded TAP first. Any remaining tuition costs will be covered by the STEM Incentive Program award, up to the maximum award amount.
What if my tuition is greater than the maximum STEM award?
The maximum amount of the STEM Incentive Program award in a given year is the standard SUNY tuition rate. Students attending a school with higher tuition costs will receive an amount equal to the standard SUNY tuition to be applied toward their tuition costs.

Student Status

What if I transfer to another SUNY or CUNY college?
You may transfer to a different SUNY or CUNY college (including the statutory colleges at Cornell and Alfred University), and continue receiving the STEM Incentive Program award, provided you continue in an approved STEM program and meet the continuing eligibility requirements.
What if I transfer to a private or out-of-state college?
If you transfer to a private or out-of-state college, you will no longer receive STEM Incentive Program award payments, but will still be bound by the terms of the Service Contract, including completing an approved undergraduate program in STEM. Once you finish your program of study you can still complete your service obligation in New York State to avoid repaying the STEM Incentive Program award amounts you have received.
What if I change majors and am no longer in an approved program of study?
If you are no longer in an approved program of study, you will need to pay back any STEM Incentive Program award payments made on your behalf. If you are continuing your postsecondary education, you will not be required to begin paying back your STEM Incentive Program award until you graduate, but interest will accrue on the amount you will pay back.
What happens if I need to take a leave of absence from my education or employment?
If a STEM Incentive Program award recipient takes a temporary leave of absence from study due to circumstances such as maternity/paternity leave, death of a family member or military duty, such recipient remains eligible for the STEM Incentive Program award upon his or her return to full time study. If a recipient takes a temporary leave of absence from employment due to such circumstances, the temporary leave shall not be considered part of the recipient’s five year service obligation; instead credits towards the five year service obligation will recommence when the recipient returns to work on a full-time basis.

Payment

Will I receive the STEM award payments directly?
No. Payments will be made to the school at the end of each semester.
If I am eligible for a STEM award, how and when does the money get released to my school?
The STEM Incentive Program award payment is released to your school at the end of each term provided the college certifies that you met the eligibility requirements. You are required to apply for payment of the STEM Incentive Program award each academic year. Recipients must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Payment of State Grants, Scholarships and Awards Application each year to receive payment. Students are encouraged to complete these applications before starting college each fall. What must I do in college to maintain my STEM award? To maintain their STEM Incentive Program award payments, recipients must:
  • meet all eligibility requirements;
  • complete at least 12 credits per semester that are applicable toward their degree requirement;
  • earn a cumulative GPA of 2.5 for each semester beginning with the second semester (for a full overview of the GPA requirement, please see the following chart: STEM GPA Requirements).
Any semester in which the student fails to meet these requirements will result in non-payment of the STEM Incentive Program award for that semester.

Terms and Conditions of Service Contract

How do I fulfill my service obligation under the STEM Program?
The service obligation requires STEM Incentive Program award recipients to live and work full-time in New York State for five years in an approved occupation after completing their postsecondary education. After the service obligation is fulfilled, the recipient is released from the obligation.
What if I decide to pursue graduate or doctorate study?
If you attend graduate school at least half-time, your service obligation will be deferred until you complete your graduate studies. You may attend graduate school outside of New York and may pursue any graduate degree. However, when you finish graduate school, you will need to return to New York and begin working in an approved occupation.
Where is the list of approved occupations?
The list of Approved STEM Occupations can be found on the HESC website.
How long do I have before I must start working?
There is a six-month grace period after you graduate before you must begin working.
What if I have difficulty finding a job?
If you are experiencing extreme hardship, including difficulty finding a job, you may request a period of deferment.
Can I pursue a career in medicine?
Occupations involving the delivery of health care are not approved for the STEM Incentive Program. This includes, but is not limited to, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine. The HESC website provides a list of Approved STEM Programs of Study and a list of Approved STEM Occupations.
Under what circumstances will I have to pay back my STEM award?
You will be required to pay back your STEM Incentive Program award, with interest, if you:
  • fail to complete an approved undergraduate program in science, technology, engineering or mathematics; or
  • change majors to a program of undergraduate study other than in science, technology, engineering or mathematics; or
  • fail to complete five years of continuous full-time employment in an approved STEM field with a public or private entity located within New York state upon completion of your undergraduate degree program ; or
  • fail to maintain residency in New York State for such period of employment; or
  • fail to respond to requests by HESC for the status of your academic or professional progress; or
  • breach the terms of the Service Contract.
In the event I have to pay back my STEM award, what are the repayment terms?
  • All award monies received shall convert to a 10-year student loan plus interest.
  • Interest rate for the life of the loan shall be fixed and equal to that published annually by the U.S. Department of Education for Undergraduate Unsubsidized Stafford loans at the time the Service Contract is signed.
  • Interest accrues from the day each award payment is disbursed.
  • Interest is capitalized on the day the award recipient violates the Service Contract or on the date HESC deems the recipient was no longer able or willing to perform the terms of the Service Contract.

Additional Resources:

  • STEM Fact Sheet
  • Approved STEM Programs
  • Approved STEM Occupations
  • STEM GPA Requirements
  • STEM Service Contract Terms and Conditions
  • If you have additional questions, feel free to contact the HESC Scholarship Unit at 888-697-4372 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..