Cornell to participate in state’s new tuition assistance programs

Cornell University will participate in two programs newly created by New York state to provide tuition aid for state residents who meet certain income and course load requirements.

With the passage of the fiscal year 2018 budget, the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Excelsior Scholarship, for residents who attend the state’s public colleges and universities, and the Enhanced Tuition Awards (ETA) program, for residents enrolled in undergraduate studies in private colleges or universities in New York state that opt in to the program. Both programs are operated through the Higher Education Services Corp. (HESC), the state’s higher education student financial aid agency. Undergraduate students interested in participating in the programs must apply through HESC.

Current and admitted undergraduate students meeting HESC income and residency requirements at Cornell’s three undergraduate contract colleges have been included in the pool of students eligible to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship. Separately, Cornell has opted in to the ETA program for eligible undergraduate students at its endowed colleges and schools – making it the only major research university in the state participating in the program.

“We’re doing all that we can to provide as many financial aid and affordability options for our families as possible. Participating in Excelsior and ETA adds additional aid opportunities that have the potential particularly to benefit middle-income families,” said Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.

Knuth noted that because most current and incoming Cornell undergraduate students whose families fall into the income limits set by the state programs already receive financial aid packages from Cornell that include substantial grant aid (usually in excess of the maximum value of the Excelsior program), a relatively small number of students are likely to be awarded additional financial aid benefits through that program. Under ETA, a comparatively larger number of Cornell students may be eligible, although the state may set limits on the number of students statewide who will receive ETA benefits.

Students who attend Cornell’s three undergraduate contract colleges – the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (including the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, a shared school with the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business), the College of Human Ecology and the ILR School – and who meet HESC residency and income requirements are eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, which will provide tuition aid (up to the value of the 2016-17 SUNY tuition rate of $6,470).

Cornell’s participation in the ETA program will make some undergraduate students attending the university’s endowed undergraduate colleges (the College of Arts and Sciences; College of Engineering; College of Architecture, Art and Planning; and the School of Hotel Administration at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business eligible to apply for a tuition award. ETA program recipients can receive up to $6,000 towards tuition through a combination of their NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award, ETA award from HESC and a match of the latter from Cornell.

The total amount available from the state for all institutions participating in the ETA program is $19 million for the 2017-18 year. If that cap is reached, the state, which ultimately is responsible for the program and review of applications, will establish a lottery or similar method to determine who receives awards, with preference given to already enrolled students. Cornell has set no limits on the number of students participating or the total dollars spent by the university on the ETA program, Knuth said.

For both programs, students must complete an application on the HESC site. The deadline for submitting an Excelsior Scholarship application is July 21; Knuth noted the application for the ETA program is not yet available. Those interested should sign up on the HESC site to be notified when the ETA application comes online.

For both programs, students must meet family income (a maximum of $100,000 in the first year, $110,000 in the second year and $125,000 thereafter) and course load (at least 12 credit hours per semester and 30 credit hours per year) requirements. Students must graduate on time and agree to live and work in New York state after graduation for as many years as they have received the award.

The dollar value of the awards will be transformed into loans that the student must repay if recipients’ later residency and work requirements are not met.

Knuth noted Cornell’s annual expenditure on Cornell grant aid has more than tripled in the last 20 years, and that number is expected to exceed $239 million in 2017, helping to defray tuition and living costs for undergraduate students with financial need. Fundraising for undergraduate scholarships remains a key university priority, she said.

Knuth said Cornell is proud of its very high graduation rate, which is about 93 percent, and that many alumni do stay in New York state or return to the state to live and work.


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