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Most, but not all, private colleges in central NY opting out of Enhanced Tuition Award

Utica College
Utica College's 2016 spring commencement. Utica College is one of a few private colleges in central New York that is participating in the Enhanced Tuition Award.

In addition to New York’s free college tuition program being offered to some middle class students that attend state schools, there is also the Enhanced Tuition Award for students attending private schools. But the majority of private colleges and universities across the state are not taking part in the program this year.

Qualifying students can receive up to $6,000 a year toward their tuition if their college participates and matches the state award. Most private colleges in central New York are opting out, including Syracuse University, Le Moyne College, Colgate University, Ithaca College and Cazenovia College.

Cazenovia’s Vice President of Enrollment Management Patrick Quinn said the timing of the program, passed by the state Legislature in April, was problematic because financial aid packages had already been sent out.

“I think because of the lateness of it, it really was a nonstarter for us," Quinn said. "Not giving a lot of thought to the entire admission cycle that families go through, I think was hurtful to the process and hurtful to students and families.”

Also, participating colleges are required to freeze the cost of tuition for qualified students while they are receiving the award. 

“Other students who are not receiving it would be paying a differential tuition rate and we could have four different tuition rates through the course of a four-year cycle," Quinn said. "We felt that that stipulation was going to be difficult for us to manage.”

And a residency requirement means after graduation, students must stay in New York state for as many years as they have earned the award.

“Students get jobs out of state at a higher rate, so we felt the restrictions were such that it would in some ways penalize our students,” Quinn said.

Quinn said they are open to reviewing the program again next year.

Utica College is one of the few private schools in central New York that is participating. Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Donna Shaffner admitted it is a sacrifice for the college but it fits in with their mission.

“We had to look at who we are as an institution and where our values are, and it really is with making sure that college is affordable for all families,” Shaffner said. "We're committing a quarter of a million dollars towards the initiative for the first year. But what we realize is that we want students across the state to know about Utica, know about our affordability."

Also, the vast majority of Utica College students come from New York and stay in New York after graduating. Cornell University and Keuka College are also participating. The application for the Enhanced Tuition Award is expected to be made available July 7.