As a New Yorker, that was my first reaction when I learned that the state would become the first to offer free college tuition.
But from the Big Apple to Albany and beyond, free college tuition is now a possibility for many families. Find out what you need to know about the Excelsior Scholarship Program and New York grants available today.
4 essential New York grants for college
New York’s Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) officially offers three grant programs for lower-income families. Unlike merit-based scholarships, these grants are awarded based on financial need.
Though it’s not a grant by name, we include the Excelsior Scholarship Program here because it’s also given to students and their families regardless of merit.
Each of these opportunities require recipients to be a high school graduate who has lived in the state for at least a year before applying.
1. Excelsior Scholarship Program
The Excelsior Scholarship Program allows recipients to attend a State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) without paying for tuition.
Recipients of the scholarship receive up to $5,500 per year for up to two years (for an associate’s degree) or four to five years (for a bachelor’s degree). Your award amount is the difference between your cost of attendance and your other financial aid awards.
Say you want to attend a SUNY with an average in-state tuition rate of $6,470 in 2018, and you received a Pell Grant for $5,000. The Excelsior Scholarship would cover your remaining $1,470 of estimated charges.
If you have remaining academic expenses after the scholarship has been applied, you’ll receive a tuition credit.
To be eligible for these funds, you’ll need to have a household income of $100,000 or less. That maximum increases to $125,000 for the 2019-2020 academic year and beyond.
You’ll also have to enroll in at least 30 credits per year. Those credits must be for courses that count toward your degree.
2. Educational Opportunity Program
The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is administered by 43 campuses in the SUNY system. You apply through the school as you’re researching your college options during your senior year of high school.
The EOP awards funds for nontuition expenses, such as books. It’s geared toward students who need special academic assistance to perform in college. These students could receive benefits, including personal counseling and on-campus tutoring.
Similar to other grants from the state, the EOP is available to you if your family meets income requirements. Take a look at the eligibility criteria below.
You’ll also need to meet academic standards. To see whether you qualify for admission into a SUNY school, consider the EOP’s informational summary. If you applied to the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in 2017, for example, you’d need an SAT score of at least 890 to be in the middle 50% of the school’s admitted students.
3. Tuition Assistance Program
The HESC awarded $980 million in grants, scholarships, and loan forgiveness benefits to New Yorkers during the 2016-2017 academic year. About $917 million of that was through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for part- and full-time students.
Through TAP, you could receive up to $5,165 to attend an approved school in the state. Your award amount would depend primarily on your level of financial need. To qualify, your family must earn an income of $80,000 or less.
You could use the HESC’s TAP Award Estimator to calculate your expected award.
You can apply for this program when filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you receive tuition assistance through this program, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA each year to maintain your eligibility. Make sure you keep track of the annual FAFSA deadlines so you can file on time.
4. Aid for Part-Time Study
New York’s Aid for Part-Time Study (APTS) program awards up to $2,000 per year to part-time students. Funds are awarded by your school’s financial aid administrators. You can ask for an application from your school.
Part-time enrollment means signing up for between three and 11 hours of classes per semester, or four to seven hours per trimester. There are also family income limits for dependent students ($50,550) as well as independent students ($34,250).
See if New York grants for college can help you cover costs
New York grants could go a long way toward covering part or all of your college tuition. Investigate your eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship Program, EOP, TAP, and APTS to gather as much aid as possible. Once you find out which programs are a fit for your family, stay on top of their application deadlines.
But remember that these four programs might not cover every cent of your cost of attendance. The Excelsior Scholarship, for example, helps fund your tuition costs. The EOP is focused on covering nontuition expenses, such as books and supplies. But you might still be on the hook for room and board.
Before you decide to take out a student loan, consider that the HESC offers nearly 20 other scholarships and awards for many types of applicants. If you’re a dependent and a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for example, you could be eligible for the NYS World Trade Center Memorial Scholarship.
If you’ve exhausted your state grant options, consider our ultimate guide to grants for college. You could find free money for college via the federal government and your school, among other sources.
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