Testimony Urges Rejection of Excelsior Expansion

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The state Legislature should reject Governor Cuomo’s proposal to expand the family income cap for the Excelsior Scholarships and devote more money to expanding the state’s existing Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), according to the testimony submitted to the joint legislative committees today by E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Enacted in 2017, the Excelsior Scholarship program promised to eliminate State University and City University of New York tuition for undergraduates from state resident households with gross annual incomes up to $125,000. Legislation submitted with the FY 2021 Executive Budget would raise that gross annual income threshold to $135,000 in 2020-21, and to $150,000 in 2021-22, at a total additional cost of $35 million.

McMahon, however, urged the Legislature to go in a different direction.

“The proposed increase in the Excelsior Scholarship income cap would build on a program that was fundamentally flawed, wasteful and unfair to begin with,” he said. “The Legislature should reject this proposal, and instead begin phasing out the Excelsior Scholarship program, accepting no new applicants after this year. The entire proposed $146 million budget allocation for Excelsior ultimately should be redirected to fund expansion of the means-tested Tuition Assistance Program.”

McMahon’s testimony is based on the conclusions of his recent Policy Briefing paper, “Excelsior Illusion:  Getting Real About ‘Free’ College in New York.”

Download the testimony and attached report here.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.