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Officials say it will require ‘multi-year federal funding’ to keep Excelsior Scholarship alive in New York

When New York moved to provide free tuition to any family that makes less than $125,000 per year – it was dubbed a success.

While it didn’t cover a lot of the ancillary costs associated with heading to college — the Excelsior Scholarship took care of tuition. Some estimates at the time suggested that it meant about a 33% savings for students and families.


Now though, the program faces an uncertain future as the state deals with a budget deficit of more than $14 billion. It’s a deficit that could grow to more than $60 billion in the coming years if federal funding does not come soon.

The Excelsior Scholarship was first in the nation to cover four years of tuition without being tied to academic performance.

The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, which runs the program, says the pandemic has caused a massive reduction in state revenues, which has caused an ongoing delay of new applications since April.

The state is still giving awards to eligible students for the fall 2020 term. However, future awards are unlikely given the situation.


“The state is contending with a devastating revenue loss, amounting to $62 billion over four years,” Angela Liotta, a spokeswoman for New York State Higher Education Services Corporation told CNBC. “In the absence of multi-year federal funding to offset this loss, future awards, including the Excelsior Scholarship award, which helps middle-class students with the last mile of college funding and is estimated to have served more than 28,000 students in the 2019-20 academic year, may have to be reduced and/or prioritized for current recipients.”

To make matters worse, approximately 70% of families are worried about how they will pay for college, according to Discover Student Loans.

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