The Excelsior Prize primarily helps middle-income CUNY students

The Excelsior Scholarship Program, which teaches for low- and middle-income students at New York State public colleges and universities, serves mostly middle-income students and fails to reach most of New York City University students who come from unequal incomes. Background is a research firm that focuses on equity and social mobility, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.

Established in 2017 as a groundbreaking model for other states, state policymakers praised the program, even as a similar free education initiative, known as the Promise Program, spread across the country. It was the first statewide program to cover teaching not only in community colleges but also in four-year universities.

The program was initially criticized by some higher ad leaders because it targeted middle-income students. The program is not covered by need-based federal or state financial aid for students at the State University of New York or City University of New York campus and covers those whose family income does not exceed $ 125,000.

The report described Excelsior as a student’s gene with “additional paperwork” and imposed strict requirements that could prevent low-income students from accessing assistance.

“As policymakers consider alternative models of free colleges across the country, New York’s experience with Excelsior highlights a broader excitement: how much fine print is too much for free colleges?” Ask for reports.

To qualify for the scholarship, students must enroll full-time and complete 30 course credits toward their degree each year. They must live and work exclusively in New York for the same number of years they received the scholarship, and if they relocate, the grants are converted into interest-free loans that must be repaid. For example, if a student receives a scholarship for four years, but leaves New York after three years, that student owes one-fourth of the grant money to the state.

The report found that about 57 percent of Excelsior recipients in the first year of fall 2018 had a family income of $ 70,000 or more, slightly higher than New York City’s average income of $ 67,046, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 68 percent of scholarship dollars went to students with that income level or higher.

Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, which supports free college programs, said the results were not surprising because Excelsio was intended to focus on middle-class families.

“The fact that people earning $ 70,000 or more are the main recipients means the program is working,” he said. “It’s not a mistake. It’s part of the design.”

However, he also sees Excelsior as an example of “how not to do this” when it comes to designing commitment programs. He agrees that the process of receiving the award is extremely complex, and that the need for graduates to stay in New York or be reimbursed is a particularly “unpopular provision” and a major obstacle for students.

CJ Libassi, co-author of the report and a doctoral student at Columbia Teachers College, noted that scholarship requirements must be paid for in order to encourage students to enroll, graduate, and strengthen the local labor market. The key to college perseverance.

“These rules, which are designed to have a motivating effect on students, prevent students from receiving money in the first place. Once you make the final calculation, it can have a detrimental effect on student enrollment and progress,” he said.

Most CUNY students did not benefit from scholarships in the early years of the program. In the fall of 2018, only 5 percent of first-year, first-year graduates received excelsior grants, while 72 percent received grants, received federal financial aid for low-income students, and 57 percent received funding for state tuition assistance programs.

Meanwhile, a quarter of the students eligible for the award actually got them, and the percentage of recipients among the eligible community college students and students of color was even lower. Only 8 percent of eligible community college students received an award, and eligible black and Latino students were about 10 percent less likely to receive a scholarship than their peers. These students were also less likely to renew their scholarships for the second year.

Eli Dovorkin, editor and policy director at the Center for An Urban Future, a think tank focused on economic dynamism in New York City, says the program neglects what students need most. He said state policymakers could believe that low-income students had all their needs met by federal and state aid, but, he noted, those students struggled with non-tuition costs and needed more funding.

“While it is commendable that New York State is trying to make college education more affordable for a wide range of New York households, especially for a large number of middle-class families, the reality is that these dollars are doing little to earn a degree. We deserve the lowest income college students in our city and state, ”he said. “And that’s a big problem, because the students are the ones who face the most obstacles to getting a college certificate in the first place. And the cost of books and child care and transportation — all of which have a huge impact on diverting students from their degree paths.

Libasi noted that the need for application and enrollment could create a barrier for students and they may fear that their grants could be converted into loans. He believes that this may make Excelsior less desirable to them.

“I think there are a lot of obstacles, a lot of questions about students who want help but find the process very difficult to navigate. It’s clear it’s part of the story,” he said. “But then there is the question of whether students want it enough.”

Judith Scott-Clayton, co-author of the report and professor of economics and education at Teachers College, believes that state policymakers can take the key lessons of designing promising programs from the first five years of Excelsior without making these programs too complicated.

“I would expect them to think carefully about the consequences of being too fancy with their qualification requirements,” he said. “Because it not only creates less acceptance for students and the potential for confusion and complexity, it also creates many administrative challenges for those responsible for enforcing these rules.”

He added that there was a motive behind the free college movement. The energy will start to decrease, ”he said.

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