Morgan Golliver, Assistant News Editor
After accepting and enrolling two of the largest freshman classes in school history, Utica College has shown a decrease in enrollment to start the 2017-2018 school year. The decrease comes following the implementation of the Excelsior Scholarship, which offers free tuition at public colleges, according to the official SUNY website.
Jeffrey T. Gates, Senior Vice President for Student Life and Enrollment Management, said the decrease in enrollment was not as bad as he was expecting.
“We have about 550 freshman and 200 transfer students this year. Our initial goals were 625 and 170,” Gates said. “Last year, we had 685 freshman and 221 transfer students. We purposely wanted to decrease both populations this fall as we are running out of space in classrooms and residence halls.”
The Excelsior Scholarship was created by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) to provide free tuition to qualifying students. But, is it really free to go to college?
“The Excelsior Scholarship is like the ‘last dollar in,’” Gates said. “Tuition may be free, but students are still paying for other expenses such as room and board, which could add up to what the tuition is.”
The Excelsior Scholarship has a lot of requirements that each student applying must follow to receive the funds. Some requirements include residing in the state of New York, having a family income of $100,000 or less and staying in New York State for the same number of years they received the scholarship.
Freshman Kelcey Madigan knew right away that she wasn’t eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship.
“I didn’t apply to any state schools after I found out I wasn’t eligible,” Madigan said. “But, after my first week here at Utica, I realized I like the small class sizes and that Utica is close to home.”
Gates believes there are both pros and cons to the requirement of students having to stay in New York after college.
“The Excelsior Scholarship provides an economic boost to the State,” Gates said. “It allows the state to produce more jobs that will keep graduates here in New York. However, some students may feel like they’re trapped into staying in New York when there are opportunities elsewhere, or some students may not know what they want to do and need more time to decide.”
Jocelyn Clement, a junior, thought about transferring to a state school. However, she is glad she didn’t go through with it.
“I really love being here at UC and I think I benefit better here than anywhere else,” Clement said.
Gates believes the reason students are coming back to Utica College instead of going to a state school is because they respect the values of the college.
“We are the national leader in college affordability, so our students can afford to come here,” Gates said. “Yes, it may cost more to come here, but our students respect that and are happy that they can enjoy a small private experience where they feel comfortable.”