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Tuition-free applications being accepted for SUNY/CUNY

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

New York State is now accepting applications for its free tuition program.  The Excelsior Scholarship application period opened Wednesday or all of the state's two and four year SUNY/CUNY colleges and universities. In the few hours after the application process opened, more than 3,200 applications were received by the state.  

A media conference call was held Wednesday afternoon to discuss the applications. Students could be notified 24-to 48-hours after applying, but a majority will be notified of eligibility within a week. Students must be enrolled full-time to apply. However, reporters also inquired about why some students were already claiming they've been denied eligibility. The state's Division of Budget director Robert Mujica responded.

“If your income is outside of the income threshold, if you’re not going full-time – so those are threshold requirements for eligibility. So that can happen in real-time and people will know whether you are eligible or not right there. Then there are others that require more work. Looking at the FASFA and going through those,” explained Mujica.  

The State’s Assistant Secretary for Education Dan Fuller said there are about 50-people are responding to calls and emails from students who have concerns or were denied eligibility. The state leaders were asked about waivers if students fail to meet the residency-work requirements for the scholarships. The waiver would postpone repayment in cases of extreme hardship.

“We’re looking at things like illness, having families needed to move, other cases of extreme hardship, loss in the family – things like that,” responded Fuller.  

But a residency requirement has been highly criticized. Students must live in the state for four years after graduation or repay the loan.

“We specifically put the waiver in there as a safety valve to make sure we can deal with unanticipated situations.  To make keep it flexible to make sure that no one is being penalized, but the overall objective of the program, which is to help New Yorkers pay for college are met,” Mujica explained.  

For eligibility, in-state students must be from families earning $100,000 or less, then the income threshold will rise to $125,000 over three years.

The applications for the free-tuition will be accepted through July 21st.   

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