Tuition-free CUNY draws record numbers of enrollments

January 8, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an expansion of the Excelsior Scholarship program in his State of the State Address last week. Photo from Gov. Cuomo’s Flickr account
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Free tuition is proving to be an immensely popular draw for students looking to attend college in Brooklyn and other parts of New York City, according to education officials.

New York state’s Excelsior Scholarship program, which provides free tuition to middle-class students in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, is being credited with the record number of freshmen seeking enrollment. The free tuition program is also available to students attending schools in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. 

CUNY officials said applications from students seeking to attend CUNY schools like Brooklyn College starting in the fall of 2018 have increased 11.1 percent in the space of just one year. A record number of students, 50,546, is looking to enter CUNY schools later this year. 

The previous record was a 9 percent increase in applications in 2016. That wave of applications resulted in the largest-ever freshman class — 38,372 students — attending CUNY schools in fall 2017, officials said. 

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken credited the state’s Excelsior Scholarship program for the increasing numbers of enrollments

The program, which was instituted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, provides a tuition-free education at CUNY and State University of New York (SUNY) schools for students whose families make $100,000 or less a year.

“Students are seeing the tremendous opportunity and value that CUNY offers. We believe that Gov. Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship played a significant role in the increases in applications, enrollment and credit-taking by enabling eligible students to attend tuition-free,” Milliken said in a statement.

In addition, once students enrolled in CUNY schools, they tended to take a full load of classes, 15 credits, in their first semester, according to officials, who noted that there had been a 10 percent in the number of students taking 15 or more credits. 

The program provides significant savings to middle-class families. Tuition at CUNY’s four-year colleges is $6,530 a year. 

To remain eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship program, students must successfully complete 30 credits a year. 

CUNY conducted an outreach program to eligible students in high schools to raise awareness of the Excelsior Scholarship, according to officials, who said the outreach included social media posts, a Facebook Live informational session, as well as contacts with more than 3,000 high school guidance counselors and teachers, as well as community leaders in neighborhoods all over the city. 

Milliken personally emailed CUNY faculty, staff members and students to tout the program.

The high number of enrollments could lead New York state to expand the free-tuition program.

There are already indications that the state is moving in that direction.

In his annual State of the State address on Jan. 3, Cuomo called for the program to be expanded. 

“While the federal government is making college less affordable, we must expand our Excelsior Free College Program that helps children of our anxious middle class and tells every child in New York, their dreams can be realized and their future can be brighter. That if they get into college, they will not be denied because they can’t afford it because they are children of the family of New York, rich or poor, we will pay their tuition,” the governor said in his speech. 

Founded in 1847, CUNY is made up of 24 institutions of higher education, including 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges and the William E. Macaulay Honors College, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy


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