Latest Numbers: Under 1,000 UAlbany Students Scheduled to Receive Excelsior Scholarship

Even students who qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship could be forking out additional tuition money this year.

A tuition increase of $200 follows from a SUNY Board of Trustees vote over the summer to raise tuition for those not receiving the scholarship.

Students from households of under $100,000 may qualify for the scholarship, but that doesn’t mean they are receiving it. If their other financial aid such as the Tuition Assistance Program covers the cost of tuition and they receive no money from Excelsior, their tuition escalates to $6,670.

This is the reality for the vast majority of students on campus because only 826 University at Albany students are scheduled to receive the scholarship so far, according to communications director Michael Parker.

With over 13,000 undergraduate students at UAlbany, this amounts to about 6 percent who are not receiving the scholarship.

One of many students paying increased tuition is Kimberley Roblero, a junior studying political science, who qualifies for the program and applied to it over the summer. She opted out of it because she received no money from the program—other aid covered the cost of her tuition.

Though Roblero understood that she didn’t receive Excelsior money because her aid covered tuition, she was unaware that her tuition increased.

“Basically, it’s a scam,” Roblero said, noting that she qualifies but can’t receive the scholarship.

Indicating the need for student awareness, Jerlisa Fontaine, the Student Association president, said that the scholarship is not transparent enough.

“It’s like you’re misleading students,” Fontaine said as she described how students are notified that they qualify for the scholarship but later learn they won’t get any money from it.

Fontaine is against the tuition increase because she doesn’t know why the board voted for it. She also indicated that while the cost of tuition isn’t a problem for her, the cost of living expenses are what make it difficult for her and many other students.

Referring to the funding the program gives, Fontaine said, “If you’re going to make up for something, you’ve got to make up for it in full.”

Echoing this sentiment, Marc Cohen, president of the SUNY Student Assembly, believes that the Excelsior Scholarship is a step in the right direction.

However, with the cost of living expenses outweighing the cost of tuition, the SUNYSA president believes funding for higher education should extend farther, and advocates against tuition increases.

The increase stems from a memorandum by the SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to the Board of Trustees, which contained a resolution that authorized filing what is termed an emergency rulemaking. This allows tuition increases in the maximum amount of $200 until the 2020-21 school year.

Commenting on the increase, Cohen said, “It’s interesting that when the emergency comes, it’s put on the shoulders of students rather than to be dealt with at a different level.”

If tuition rose by the maximum amount each year until the 2020 school year, it would be $7,270 for non-Excelsior students.

A trustee who voted against increasing tuition in the Board of Trustee vote, Cohen is advocating for Maintenance of Effort as such a bill awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature.

The bill, passed in the state senate and assembly, calls for more funding from MOE, or accounting for inflationary costs without using students’ tuition money. Cuomo has previously vetoed such bills.

Seeking to garner more attention and support for higher education funding, Cohen, along with SUNYSA, is launching a movement and coining a new meaning of MOE: Money Owed to Education.

By using this term to name a new movement, Cohen hopes to engage students and officials through rallies that raise awareness.

Cohen believes that access to higher education is a human right, and that by calling it such it will bring more attention to associated issues.

“I think if we can bring to light the fact that access to education is a human right, a lot more people would be paying attention to issues of affordability and issues of access,” the Student Assembly president said.