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SUNY Chancellor Calls Excelsior Scholarship A Success Despite Low First-Year Numbers

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson is calling the Excelsior Scholarship a success despite statistics that show it was used by only 3.2% of SUNY students to help pay tuition costs in its first year.

According to the New York State Higher Education Corporation, just over 20,000 students were awarded the scholarship in the 2017-2018 school year. Johnson wants to drill down in those numbers though.  She said there are some very positive impacts from the scholarship, specifically when it comes to a lower dropout rate.

"The retention rate is 10% higher with Excelsior students, with scholarships which are Excelsior, than for students that don’t have an Excelsior Scholarship," Johnson said. "And 15% higher for community colleges where a lot of our students get their start. So I'm excited after this year to look at graduation rates, particularly at community college where you have 15% higher retention.”

Johnson said she believes the program is working as it was designed, and noted other SUNY programs that have piggybacked on the scholarship. They include a financial literacy initiative and "Re-Enroll to Complete," that allows students to go back to school after dropping out.

The Excelsior Scholarship is open to students from families that earn less than $125,000 going to any SUNY or CUNY school, provided the student stays in New York for as many years as they receive the scholarship. New York is the only state program that offers the last-dollar assistance to students in four-year schools.