Excelsior Scholarship

New York is now home to the Nation’s first accessible college program – The Excelsior Scholarship. The Excelsior Scholarship, in combination with other student-financial aid programs, allows students who meet the eligibility requirements to attend a CUNY college tuition-free.


An applicant must:

  • Be a resident of NYS and have resided in NYS for 12 continuous months prior to the beginning of the term;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen;
  • Have either graduated from high school in the United States, earned a high school equivalency diploma, or passed a federally approved "Ability to Benefit" test, as defined by the Commissioner of the State Education Department;
  • Have a combined federal adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less;
  • Be pursuing an undergraduate degree;
  • Be enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program;
  • If attended college prior to CUNY SPS, have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively, with no break in attendance), applicable toward his or her degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship;
  • Be in a non-default status on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any NYS award;
  • Be in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by a NYS award that you have previously received; and
  • Execute a Contract agreeing to reside in NYS for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS.

Recipients of the Excelsior Scholarship may receive up to $5,500 or actual tuition, whichever is less. The maximum Excelsior Scholarship will be reduced by the amount of certain other student financial aid awards which an applicant has or will receive for the academic year including a New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and/or federal Pell grant.

A recipient of an Excelsior Scholarship is eligible to receive award payments for not more than two years of full-time undergraduate study in a program leading to an associate's degree or four years of full-time undergraduate study, or five years if the program of study normally requires five years in a program leading to a bachelor's degree.

You must live in New York State for the length of time you received the award. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the conversion of your award to a no-interest loan.

We strongly encourage you to take the time to educate yourself about the Excelsior Scholarship so you may determine if this opportunity is right for you and your family. The following resources are available through the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC):

For any questions on the Excelsior Scholarship application contact the Excelsior Scholarship Hotline at 888-697-4372 or send an email to scholarships@hesc.ny.gov.


Visit the HESC site for more information.


To receive subsequent payments each year after initial application, an Excelsior Scholarship recipient must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Payment of State Grants, Scholarships and Awards Application each year.

*Note: Any award payment received may have tax implications. Any questions regarding this should be directed to a tax professional, the Internal Revenue Service, or the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

In addition, to receive payments for each term, students must meet the credit requirements. Those who fail to do so will have to be decertified for that term which causes a balance owed to the school by the student and subsequent ineligibility for the scholarship. In other words, if a student does not register or complete at least 12 credits in that semester, the student will lose eligibility for Excelsior that term. The same applies for a student who fails to complete 30 credits by the end of the academic year. Once eligibility is lost, it cannot be regained.