New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, above, during a news conference at Stony Brook University on Feb. 18,
2017. 750 Stony Brook students received the Excelsior Scholarship in the fall. KRYSTEN MASSA/STATESMAN FILE

Applications to SUNY schools have increased 9 percent as a result of the Excelsior Scholarship Program, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Full-time freshman enrollment has increased 11 percent since the start of the scholarship, which Cuomo claims is evidence the program is working.

“The Excelsior Scholarship opens the door to higher education and a brighter economic future, and this increase in applications is proof positive that students are seizing this unprecedented opportunity,” Cuomo said in a press release.

While proving to be successful statewide, there is no evidence that the scholarship has caused an increase in freshman applicants at Stony Brook University. The program was implemented months after the university’s January priority application deadline, and only a few weeks before the May 1 decision date.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, nearly 200 more first-year students enrolled than expected in Fall 2017, but numbers were lower than anticipated for Spring 2018.

Currently, applications for Fall 2018 are 1,000 applications ahead of Fall 2017 rates.

“It is not possible to tell if these are a result of Excelsior or other efforts we have made to recruit a talented and diverse freshman class,” the Office of Institutional Research said in an email.

A total of 750 Stony Brook students received the scholarship in the fall.

The Excelsior Scholarship, signed into law in April 2017 as part of New York’s fiscal year 2018 budget, provides full tuition payment to eligible students living in New York with annual household incomes up to $110,000. The household income threshold will increase to $125,000 for the 2018-19 school year, 25 percent above the scholarship’s original $100,000 requirement.

The increased necessary household income allows 38 percent of Long Island students to attend public colleges tuition-free, according to a Feb. 8 press release from the governor’s office. 

“Since the introduction of the Excelsior Scholarship, more New Yorkers from middle income households have the opportunity for free tuition, making a high quality college education attainable,” SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said in a press release. “Now, as we enter the second year of this program, we are encouraged to see a significant increase in the number of students applying to SUNY and taking that first step toward making their college dream a reality.”