Excelsior Scholarship impact remains to be seen seen

The Excelsior Scholarship went into effect this semester as part of a state-wide program to reduce students’ and their families’ financial burden. Thus far, this program has had a limited influence on enrollment, according to Vice President for Enrollment Management Meaghan Arena.

The scholarship program was instituted as part of the New York State budget in April. The program provides free tuition for students going to a public college whose combined family income is less than $100,000. By 2019, the cap will increase to $125,000. Students need to complete 30 credits between the fall, winter, spring and summer terms to qualify, according to Director of the Office of Financial Aid Susan Romano. 

“We have some options,” she said. “It’s not like you’re locked in to take 15 credits each semester because you can take a class in the summer or in the winter. ” 

The current number of students who have received the scholarship is not available because the SUNY system wants to collect data on all the campuses first, Romano said. Less than 10 percent of students at Geneseo received the scholarship, according to Arena. 

Since the program was not initiated until April, the scholarship had little effect on admissions or enrollment for the freshman class, according to Arena. 

“We don’t really know the full impact of Excelsior on enrollment,” Arena said. “It wasn’t introduced until late into the cycle, so we already sent out offers of admissions and our enrollment was right about where we thought it would be. I will say that top students choose Geneseo as their first-choice school … so I think Excelsior is not going to have a large impact on our school.” 

Regardless of whether Excelsior will increase the number of applications, enrollment would not significantly increase, according to Arena. The enrollment plans that the college will likely follow only would call for a slight increase in enrollment, not enough to make Geneseo grow exponentially, Arena said. 

Similarly, the scholarship’s impact is hard to measure because the application period was abbreviated, according to Romano. Applicants to the financial aid program had approximately a month between when the application opened on June 7 and when it closed on July 21. 

“This year it was just so new and we were still working through the details and students didn’t have the usual time frame to apply,” Romano said. “I think that all impacted things.” 

Some students are ambivalent because they believe the Excelsior program has a moderate impact.History major junior Rebecca Hagan believes the free tuition component is overblown as it doesn’t affect students with family incomes slightly above the income restriction. 

“My family income is slightly higher than the Excelsior limit,” she said. “We were talking about whether it’d be worth it to lower it, but the money doesn’t even cover room and board, which is the most expensive part. It doesn’t really impact a lot of people that could use the money.”u