Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., promised to make public college free for many low-income students at public colleges in New York. But now it appears his Excelsior free college program might still be out of reach for many low-income New York residents.
A new report by the Center for an Urban Future found that, of the 633,543 undergraduates enrolled in public colleges across New York State for the 2017-2018 academic year, just 3.2 percent, or roughly 20,000 students, actually received the Excelsior scholarship during the school year.
While the relatively low numbers of students receiving Excelsior money is surprising given that Cuomo essentially promised free public college to middle-class families, these numbers pale in comparison to the extraordinarily high rejection rate for families seeking financial assistance through the Excelsior program. According to the report, of the 63,599 students who applied, 43,513 were rejected, for a roughly 70 percent rejection rate.
According to the authors of the study, the actual numbers of students receiving Excelsior aid are rather low given the initial promises made by Cuomo regarding free public college.
“That’s pretty modest for a college promise program that basically says every student can attend a public college or university for free,” said Tom Hilliard, who is an employee of the Center for an Urban Future and one of the study’s co-authors.