Helpful or hurtful: Students discuss the impact of the Excelsior Scholarship

Julio Rodriguez

excelsior_0Courtesy of NY.GOV | The Hudsonian Student Newspaper

“I definitely think the scholarship helps students,” said Individual Studies Student Morgan Trotta. “I’m using it right now and it’s definitely reduced so much of the cost. I know that going to school isn’t going to put me in further debt that I won’t be able to pay off.”

Trotta is among the SUNY and CUNY students that accepted the newly introduced Excelsior Scholarship. The scholarship, in combination with other student financial aid programs, allows students to attend a SUNY or CUNY college, tuition-free.

The tuition assistance program is unlike any other in the country. According to, under this groundbreaking program, more than 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year will qualify to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in N.Y.

The program makes a college education accessible to students unable to pay the high cost of tuition. However, the scholarship is not absolutely “free” for everyone in N.Y.

Students who accept the scholarship must take 30 credits per calendar year (including January and Summer sessions). Additionally, recipients must also plan to live and work in N.Y., following graduation, for the length of time they participate in the scholarship program.

“I think that the requirements are fair,” said Biotechnology Student Brianna Isby. “The state is willing to give you enough money to send you to college for free.”

Isby continued, “It should be known that you have to put in the amount of work that they want you to put in. If you don’t, then the state is just giving away money to people who don’t want to do anything in the state.”

While Isby supports these requirements, others have raised questions about the scholarship’s actual intent to “help” middle class families send their children to college.
“I thought the scholarship was for everyone, but it’s really not,” said Nursing Student Jessica Miguel.

Miguel continued, “Some students have a lot of responsibilities. They’re working and they have kids. [The state government] should redesign the scholarship so that part-time students can benefit from the program.”

Miguel acknowledges the hardships that many part-time students face on a day-to-day basis.
“Some students aren’t full time. It’s hard for them to make the 30 credits in one year. I didn’t know about the requirements, but now I know I think I’d like to apply,” Miguel said.

Miguel was unaware of the scholarship’s additional requirements prior to her arrival at Hudson Valley.

“I heard about it in a different way. Nobody explained it to me or anything. The way that it was explained to me was that students could go to college four years for free, but no one ever told me about the requirements,” Miguel said.

Isby, on the other hand, believes the required 30 credit hours and expectation to live in N.Y. after attaining the degree is a fair deal for the scholarship.

“It sounds like a really good idea, but I don’t know if it would work for everybody. It does sound like it would be a good idea to get people moving to a different school after Hudson Valley, which is what a lot of people plan on doing anyway, and if they can get financial aid for that it would be really good to help them along,” Trotta said.

Trotta encountered some concerning problems after her completion of the application.
“Initially, it didn’t go through the right away, so I had to pay the regular tuition rate,” Trotta said. “So, I’m just now getting back the money I should have paid. I paid extra so that I could keep my classes and everything intact, and they send you money after the fact.

Trotta continued, “I got all stressed out and had to call out of work to come [to Hudson Valley] because my tuition rate was reading higher than it should have. That part of it was pretty stressful. I thought, ‘Oh my god, they’re going to drop all of my classes.’”

It’s obvious that the program is new and the state is still trying to repair some flaws in their system. However, the end result was worth the trouble for Trotta.

“Being stress-free in that sense is such a nice feeling to have. Some people come out of college and they have all of this debt afterwards,” Trotta said.

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