NYS Exposed: Most students miss out on free-tuition program

September 08, 2017 09:45 AM

ROCHESTER — Seventy-five thousand students in New York State applied for the new Excelsior Scholarship, a majority of them will not qualify. While the free-tuition program was launched with much fanfare, thousands of students who thought they would qualify are learning just days before the fall semester starts, they’re not getting the money.

Thiery Haynesworth graduated from the School of the Arts in Rochester, in 2015. "I was very indecisive in my senior year about what I wanted to do. I was bouncing back and forth between careers and I knew college wasn't right for me yet,” she recalls.

So, she went to the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center and enrolled in the pharmacy technician program. Haynesworth loved it and decided she wants to become a pharmacist so she’s starting part-time classes at Monroe Community College next week. "I am still working full-time, actually in a pharmacy so I don't want to give up that experience, learning first hand with the medications and the patient care,” she says.

New York’s free-tuition program really perked her interest. "I actually heard about it first hand from Cuomo, he came to REOC and he announced it… I was very excited, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can do this... I can go to school for free' and then I saw the qualifications and I was kind of bummed out,” Haynesworth says.

Bummed because she’s one of the thousands of students that she does not qualify.

Part-time students, students who’ve started classes in the past and now are returning to complete a degree, those who are not on track to graduate within four years and those whose families earn more than $100,000/year do not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship. “I think it's amazing what we're trying to do but I think it's also bias a bit because not everyone can afford to go full-time,” Haynesworth says.

When News10NBC asked Governor Cuomo about the program last week, he was excited about the response. "It has exceeded the numbers that we thought we were going to get…Government gives you the ability to make a difference in a person’s life, doesn't say you necessarily will, but it says you have a chance,” he said.

When asked specifically about the number of students who are being denied today, the governor’s spokeswoman said, "The first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship is designed to enable as many students as possible to attend college tuition-free while boosting on-time completion and reducing student debt. Any break in college attendance for any reason -- including medical, military or personal leave -- will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure maximum flexibility. We are thrilled by the widespread interest in the program, and look forward to building and expanding on its success year after year."

Republican lawmakers who didn’t love the idea of the Excelsior Scholarship in the first place, say they’re not surprised many will walk away disappointed. "We knew with the Excelsior program that there were a lot of strings attached to this program and it wasn't going to be as simple for a lot of people as everyone thought it was going to be,” says Senator Rich Funke.

Students who don’t qualify for Excelsior do likely still qualify for the TAP and Pell grants.



Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2017 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Relay Media Amp

We no longer have Facebook comments on this site. Please visit our Facebook Page to join the conversation.