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Excelsior Scholarship Receives Lukewarm Sentiment

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Students from households earning less than $100,000 will receive free tuition at University at Albany this fall, but they will be bound by a set of requirements.

The free tuition as part of the Excelsior Scholarship will require students receiving the money to take 30 credits a year and live in state after graduation.

The scholarship is like a contract, according to SUNY Student Assembly President Marc Cohen

“I think students are going to look at it and recognize that they’re entering into something of a contract,” he said.

For instance, if students receiving the scholarship move out of state after graduation, they will have to pay back the scholarship in the form of a loan.

Some say this requirement is reasonable, but others say it is unfair for students.

Cohen is one who disagrees with the in-state living requirement.

“We need to be supporting students’ access to higher education without strings attached,” he said.

Cohen believes that if students receive a job offer in another state, they should feel free to accept it.

On the contrary, Adrian Masters, chair of the university’s economic department said that the requirement is reasonable.

“Entirely from a fiscal balance-of-the-budget perspective, it makes sense to do what they’re doing,” said Masters.

Masters said that the in-state requirement creates the potential for students to remain in state after graduation, which could generate more tax revenue for the state.

Echoing support of the requirement, Student Association Vice President Colin Manchester said, “New York state taxpayers are bearing the cost of this.”

By making sure students don’t leave the state right after graduation, they would be able to give back to the state’s economy, Manchester said.

The other requirement of taking 30 credits a year will motivate students to complete their degree on time, according to Cohen.

“This is a completion-driven scholarship,” he said.

However, some students won’t qualify for the scholarship because they are not taking 30 credits a year.

Like Connor Bucci, a freshman economics major with a minor in political science.

“I also don’t plan on taking classes over the summer to meet the credit minimum because I plan on working on a consistent basis,” Bucci said.

Bucci is in the 3+3 program with Albany Law School and came into UAlbany with at least 30 credits.

In the 2012-2013 undergraduate bulletin, the university reported that 55 percent of freshmen entering in fall 2007 graduated in four years.

While Cohen expects timely graduation rates to increase, he also expects the number of university applications to increase.

However, the effect on the university is not yet certain.

Masters said the university will face the question of where the money for tuition will continue to come from.

Since the scholarship will be paid for out of state general funds, or revenues, Masters said that the scholarship could end up paying for itself when students pay taxes after graduation.

Even with this, the professor said the scholarship could take a while to benefit the state, but that the effectiveness may be hard to detect.

“It’s very hard to monitor whether it’s paying for itself or not,” Masters said.

The university has been in contact with SUNY administration regarding the scholarship every week, according to Sandra Starke, vice provost and associate vice provost for enrollment management.

Starke said that the university is still waiting for more information from the Higher Education Services Corporation.

In the meantime, the 30-credit requirement will “certainly help more students focus on graduating within four years,” Starke said.  

This coming year, the scholarship will cost $163 million, which is 0.1 percent of the state’s budget for fiscal year 2018.

Approximately 76 percent of students statewide will qualify for the scholarship, which translates to over 940,000 families.

But with the requirements in place, senior Karman Lipscomb acknowledged that the scholarship must have passed as a result of some negotiations.

Speaking to the requirements, Lipscomb said, “Unfortunately, that’s just how our government runs. They give you something, but they need something back.”

 

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