Excelsior Scholarship Program

The Excelsior Scholarship, in combination with other student financial aid programs, allows students to attend a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free.

  • Excelsior
  • NYS DREAM Act Excelsior Applicants

Eligibility

An applicant must:

  • be a resident of NYS and have resided in NYS for 12 continuous months prior to the beginning of the term;
  • be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen;
  • have either graduated from high school in the United States, earned a high school equivalency diploma, or passed a federally approved "Ability to Benefit" test, as defined by the Commissioner of the State Education Department;
  • have a combined federal adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less;
  • be pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University;
  • be enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program;
  • if attended college prior to the 2019-20 academic year, have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship;
  • be in 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;
  • be in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by a NYS award that you have previously received; and
  • execute a Contract agreeing to reside in NYS for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS.

Click here if you do not meet the above eligibility requirements.

Catching Up on Credits

A student who is not on track to complete an Associate’s degree in two consecutive years or Bachelor’s degree in four consecutive years (which requires completion of the equivalent of 30 credits each academic year) can catch up on missing credits to become eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship. If you successfully earn additional credits during a term or academic year and get back on track to completing your degree on time, you will be eligible to receive an Excelsior Scholarship for the remainder of your undergraduate degree program.

Opportunity Programs

If you are in an opportunity program, the Excelsior Scholarship program allows five years  to complete your degree on time (which requires completion of the equivalent of 24 credits each academic year).

Five-Year Undergraduate Programs

If you are in an undergraduate program of study normally requiring five-years, the Excelsior Scholarship program allows five years  to complete your degree on time (which requires completion of the equivalent of 30 credits each academic year).

Students with Disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

To be eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship, students with qualified disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act who attend less than full time must register with their college office for students with disabilities.

If you are a student with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Excelsior Scholarship program requires that you be continuously enrolled and complete the number of credits you attempted each semester to fulfill the requirement for on-time degree completion. If you have not earned credits for all courses attempted, you can catch up on missing credits if you successfully earn additional credits during a Summer and/or Winter session(s) and get back on track for credits that were not previously completed.

Students with disabilities determined to be ineligible who can demonstrate good cause for completing fewer credits than attempted and/or a break in attendance may appeal the decision by completing the Excelsior Scholarship Program Appeal Form and uploading to https://www.hesc.ny.gov/ExcelsiorAppeals.

For more information, visit NYS Student Financial Aid Programs and Students with Disabilities.

Appeals

Students whose current income or prior year adjusted gross income is $125,000 or below due to the disability, divorce or separation of a parent, spouse or the student or the death of a parent or spouse may appeal their disqualification by completing the Income Appeal Form and uploading to https://www.hesc.ny.gov/ExcelsiorIncomeAppeals.

Students who are determined to be ineligible for failure to meet the annual credit or continuous enrollment requirements and who can demonstrate good cause may appeal the decision by completing the Excelsior Scholarship Program Appeal Form and uploading to https://www.hesc.ny.gov/ExcelsiorAppeals.

Award Amount*

A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship may receive up to $5,500.

To determine the award amount, the 2016-17 resident tuition rate charged by SUNY ($6,470) or CUNY ($6,330) will be reduced by the amount of certain other student financial aid awards which an applicant has or will receive for the academic year, including a NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and/or federal Pell grant. The Excelsior Scholarship will cover any remaining tuition liability up to $5,500; and a tuition credit will cover any remaining tuition expenses not covered by the Excelsior Scholarship.

*Note: Any award payment received may have tax implications. Any questions regarding this should be directed to a tax professional, the Internal Revenue Service, or the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

Duration

A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship is eligible to receive award payments for not more than two years of full-time undergraduate study in a program leading to an associate's degree or four years of full-time undergraduate study, or five years if the program of study normally requires five years, in a program leading to a bachelor's degree.

Payment

To receive award payments after the initial application year, an Excelsior Scholarship recipient must annually complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the NYS Student Aid Payment Application each year.

How to Apply

Current Excelsior Scholarship recipients should not complete this application.

Application Deadline: August 15, 2019

Frequently Asked Questions

View commonly asked questions pertaining to the Excelsior Scholarship.

Questions?

Please contact the Scholarship Unit at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 888-697-4372.

 

Eligibility

You may be eligible if:

  1. Your permanent home is in NYS and you are or have ONE of the following:
    1. U-Visa
    2. T-Visa
    3. Temporary protected status, pursuant to the Federal Immigration Act of 1990
    4. Without lawful immigration status (including those with DACA status)
    5. AND you meet ONE of the following criteria:
      1. You attended a NYS high school for 2 or more years, graduated from a NYS high school, and are applying for an award for undergraduate study at a NYS college within five years of receiving your NYS high school diploma OR
      2. You attended a NYS high school for 2 or more years, graduated from a NYS high school, and are applying for an award for graduate study at a NYS college within ten years of receiving your NYS high school diploma OR
      3. You received a NYS high school equivalency diploma, and are applying for an award for undergraduate study at a NYS college within five years of receiving your NYS high school equivalency diploma OR
      4. You received a NYS high school equivalency diploma, and are applying for an award for graduate study at a NYS college within ten years of receiving your NYS high school equivalency diploma OR
      5. You did not attend or graduate from a NYS high school, did not receive a NYS high school equivalency diploma, but are charged the NYS resident in-State tuition rate at a SUNY or CUNY college for any reason
  2. Your permanent home is outside of NYS and you are or have ONE of the following:
    1. U.S. citizen
    2. Permanent lawful resident
    3. Of a class of refugees paroled by the attorney general under his or her parole authority pertaining to the admission of aliens to the U.S.
    4. U-Visa
    5. T-Visa
    6. Temporary protected status, pursuant to the Federal Immigration Act of 1990
    7. Without lawful immigration status (including those with DACA status)
    8. AND you meet ONE of the following criteria:
      1. You attended a NYS high school for 2 or more years, graduated from a NYS high school, and are applying for an award for undergraduate study at a NYS college within five years of receiving your NYS high school diploma OR
      2. You attended a NYS high school for 2 or more years, graduated from a NYS high school, and are applying for an award for graduate study at a NYS college within ten years of receiving your NYS high school diploma OR
      3. You received a NYS high school equivalency diploma, and are applying for an award for undergraduate study at a NYS college within five years of receiving your NYS high school equivalency diploma OR
      4. You received a NYS high school equivalency diploma, and are applying for an award for graduate study at a NYS college within ten years of receiving your NYS high school equivalency diploma OR
      5. You did not attend or graduate from a NYS high school, did not receive a NYS high school equivalency diploma, but are charged the NYS resident in-State tuition rate at a SUNY or CUNY college for any reason
  3. You have either a household or combined federal adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less;
  4. You are pursuing an undergraduate degree at a two-year or four-year SUNY or CUNY college, including the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University;
  5. You are enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward your degree program;
  6. If attended college prior to the 2019-20 academic year, you have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward your degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship;
  7. You are in 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;
  8. You are in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by a NYS award that you have previously received; and
  9. You execute a Contract agreeing to reside in NYS for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS.

 

Catching Up on Credits

A student who is not on track to complete an Associate’s degree in two consecutive years or Bachelor’s degree in four consecutive years (which requires completion of the equivalent of 30 credits each academic year) can catch up on missing credits to become eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship. If you successfully earn additional credits during a term or academic year and get back on track to completing your degree on time, you will be eligible to receive an Excelsior Scholarship for the remainder of your undergraduate degree program.

Opportunity Programs

If you are in an opportunity program, the Excelsior Scholarship program allows five years  to complete your degree on time (which requires completion of the equivalent of 24 credits each academic year).

Five-Year Undergraduate Programs

If you are in an undergraduate program of study normally requiring five-years, the Excelsior Scholarship program allows five years  to complete your degree on time (which requires completion of the equivalent of 30 credits each academic year).

Students with Disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

To be eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship, students with qualified disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act who attend less than full time must register with their college office for students with disabilities.

If you are a student with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Excelsior Scholarship program requires that you be continuously enrolled and complete the number of credits you attempted each semester to fulfill the requirement for on-time degree completion. If you have not earned credits for all courses attempted, you can catch up on missing credits if you successfully earn additional credits during a Summer and/or Winter session(s) and get back on track for credits that were not previously completed.

Students with disabilities determined to be ineligible who can demonstrate good cause for completing fewer credits than attempted and/or a break in attendance may appeal the decision by completing the Excelsior Scholarship Program Appeal Form and emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information, visit NYS Student Financial Aid Programs and Students with Disabilities.

Appeals

Students whose current income or prior year adjusted gross income is $125,000 or below due to the disability, divorce or separation of a parent, spouse or the student or the death of a parent or spouse may appeal their disqualification by completing the Income Appeal Form and emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Students who are determined to be ineligible for failure to meet the annual credit or continuous enrollment requirements and who can demonstrate good cause may appeal the decision by completing the Excelsior Scholarship Program Appeal Form and emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Award Amount*

A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship may receive up to $5,500.

To determine the award amount, the 2016-17 resident tuition rate charged by SUNY ($6,470) or CUNY ($6,330) will be reduced by the amount of certain other student financial aid awards which an applicant has or will receive for the academic year, including a NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and/or federal Pell grant. The Excelsior Scholarship will cover any remaining tuition liability up to $5,500; and a tuition credit will cover any remaining tuition expenses not covered by the Excelsior Scholarship.

*Note: Any award payment received may have tax implications. Any questions regarding this should be directed to a tax professional, the Internal Revenue Service, or the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

Duration

A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship is eligible to receive award payments for not more than two years of full-time undergraduate study in a program leading to an associate's degree or four years of full-time undergraduate studyin a program leading to a Bachelor's defree, or five years if the program of study normally requires five years.

Payment

To receive award payments after the initial application year, an Excelsior Scholarship recipient who qualifies under the DREAM Act must annually complete a payment application. Recipients under the DREAM Act who are eligible for federal student aid must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year.

How to Apply

Students newly applying for NYS financial aid under the provisions of the DREAM Act must first apply for eligibility under the NYS DREAM Act before applying for the Excelsior Scholarship. If you have previously qualified under the NYS DREAM Act, you will simply need to add a new application to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship. 

Monitoring the Status of Your Application

Once you have submitted an application, it is your responsibility to monitor the status of your application and to make sure your application is complete. You will be able to monitor the status of your application online after submitting your application and uploading any required documentation.

Award Notification and Acceptance

You will be notified by email when a determination has been made regarding your eligibility for each award for which you have applied. If you are determined to be eligible for an award, your next step will be to accept the award!

For certain awards, you must sign a contract agreeing to live and/or work in New York State for a required number of years after graduation as a condition of receiving the award. If you decide not to accept an award with a post-graduation requirement, please indicate this on the contract.

Frequently Asked Questions

View commonly asked questions pertaining to the Excelsior Scholarship.

Term Definitions

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS): allows foreign nationals to remain in the U.S. if during the time they were in the U.S. something catastrophic happened in their country of origin preventing their safe return – for example war, famine, natural disaster, or epidemic. TPS allows people to work legally and be protected from deportation.
  • T-Visa: allows the granting of lawful status to noncitizen victims of human trafficking, as well as their immediate family members, who assist in the prosecution of the trafficking. It allows people to remain and work temporarily in the U.S.
  • U-Visa: allows for the granting of lawful status to noncitizen crime victims who suffered significant physical or mental abuse (and their immediate family members) who assist in the prosecution of the crime. It allows people to remain and work temporarily in the U.S.
  • Without Lawful Immigration Status: living in the U.S. unlawfully either because lawful status never existed (including those with DACA status) or has ended.