SUNY tuition bill looming, Excelsior Scholarship app still closed, Gov's office says 'opening soon'

Berkeley Brean
Updated: July 16, 2020 06:33 PM
Created: July 16, 2020 06:26 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) — The first bills for SUNY tuition are due in August but students and their parents still cannot apply for the Excelsior Scholarship which is supposed to cover tuition. 

So the clock is ticking. 

Sydney Miller is going to be a freshman at SUNY Geneseo. She's from Ontario, Wayne County, a small town.

"And Geneseo is the perfect size," she said. 

Her mother, Stephanie Miller says they saved for college but they also banked on the Excelsior Scholarship.

Here's the problem: The application process isn't open yet. 

The state website tells parents to put in their email and they'll let them know when it opens. 

Click here for the Excelsior Scholarship webpage. Enter your email to be notified when the application process open.

Brean: "Where does that leave you?"

Stephanie Miller, Sydney's mother: "I think we're just going to have to come up with a contingency plan."

"The Miller family reached out to you. What have you learned about this?" I asked New York State Assemblyman Brian Manktelow. Manktelow represents Wayne County. 

He says his staff started calling state education officials. He says they confirmed the scholarship money, $119 million, is in the state budget but the application process is closed.

Brean: "Did anyone in the state give you or your staff any indication as to when it's going to open?"

Brian Manktelow, NYS Assembly, Wayne County: "Absolutely not. Not at this point."

As of the writing of this story, SUNY and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation have not answered my questions. 

I contacted SUNY Geneseo and Brockport. Both say they haven't been told when the application will open. 

A Finger Lakes Community College student shared an email with me. Last month when she asked the state when the application will open the response was "sometime in June."

At 5:53 p.m. Thursday, one of the governor's spokesman emailed me writing, "The application period for the Excelsior Scholarship will open soon, providing the opportunity to apply for funds that provide the middle class with the last mile of support they need to attend college tuition free. That said, the State is contending with a devastating revenue loss, amounting to $61 billion over four years, and in the absence of multi-year federal funding for New York State awards may have to be reduced. We hope students and their families will join is in calling on the federal government to act."

At his budget hearing on February 4th, 2020, the president of Higher Education said he expects 30,000 students will be eligible for Excelsior Scholarship this school year. 

Dr. Guillermo Linares did say they can approve the applications quickly. 

"We are able to have a 48-hour turnaround for the majority of those that apply particularly if they are Freshman," Dr. Linares told state lawmakers. 

Sydney Miller will be a freshman. 

Brean: "Part of the frustration is just not knowing."

Stephanie Miller: "That's a large sum of money to come up with and consider and how do we want to do that? It was $3,000 we weren't planning on so we'll have to figure it out."

The SUNY fall semester bill is usually due Aug. 1. But there might be a little breathing space for parents. Thursday, SUNY Geneseo emailed Sydney Miller and told her the fall semester bill will hopefully "be sent out early August and will be due early September."

The Excelsior Scholarship is eligible for families with a household income of $125,000 a year or less.

In the 2019-2020 school year, 52,000 students applied and 28,000 were approved.

The SUNY tuition is $7,070. The scholarship is $5,500. The state says the balance of the tuition is covered by other state aid like TAP. 

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