St. John’s University and Niagara University are major ministries of the Eastern Province in New York State. Recently Governor Andrew Cuomo secured passage of the Excelsior Scholarship program as the first in the nation to make college tuition free to middle-class New Yorkers.
Today, college is what high school was—it should always be an option even if you can’t afford it.
With the passage of the FY 2018 State Budget, New York is now home to the nation’s first accessible college program – The Excelsior Scholarship.
Under this groundbreaking program, more than 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year will qualify to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in New York State. The new program begins in the fall of 2017 and will be phased in over three years.
In New York State, every child will have the opportunity that education provides.
As a Catholic and Vincentian university, Niagara has a strong legacy of providing an accessible and affordable education. For that reason, we commend any initiative that calls attention to access and affordability. At Niagara University, 98 percent of our students received nearly $44 million in institutional financial aid during the 2015-2016 academic year.
We believe strongly in the value of a Niagara education for good reason:
- Ninety-seven percent of our recent graduates are working or enrolled in graduate school. It is through our extensive partnerships with government, not-for-profit, and private entities within the Western New York region, across the state and in the Northeast region, that we connect students to their profession through internship opportunities and cutting edge practice in their program of study.
- Niagara graduates students in four years at a higher rate than their peers at public institutions, where the four-year graduation rate is less than 50 percent. In fact, NU has the highest four-year graduation rate of all institutions in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
- Money magazine has reported that Niagara University offers the best return on investment in higher education in the Buffalo-Niagara region for two years in a row.
- Relationships with faculty, other alumni, staff, and administration enrich the academic and campus experience and therefore last a life-time.
We have been closely following the governor’s proposal and subsequent legislative state budget approval for the Excelsior Scholarship Program. As we are all beginning to learn, this program offers New York students conditional and unguaranteed free tuition at state institutions. The program does not cover the cost of room, board and fees at state institutions; it includes a New York State residency requirement after graduation. The legislature also approved similar conditional grant programs for students attending private colleges.
These pieces of legislation have a great deal of fine print and currently undefined details that are still being worked out in the state capitol. As the details of this scholarship are being finalized, we will continue to communicate with you as to how this legislation may impact students studying at Niagara University.
For more than 160 years, Niagara University has been an anchor in Western New York, preparing students for careers as teachers, business leaders, nurses, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and professionals in other fields here in New York and around the globe. As a university, we remain committed to access and affordability, and preparing students for personal and professional success.
We will serve as a resource for our prospective students and families as we navigate these new proposals for scholarships. Many of the details and implications for students are still emerging at this point, and we will work to ensure that the most accurate information is available. Please watch for additional information from Niagara over the next week or two. In the meantime, I trust you will call us with any questions you may have. You may contact our Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, Cathleen Anderson, at 716-286-8717.
With every good wish,
James J. Maher, C.M.