Be­yond tu­ition


Many pri­vate col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors con­tin­ued to ex­press frus­tra­tion about the Ex­cel­sior pro­gram, la­bel­ing it a gim­mick and say­ing it dis­tracts stu­dents and fam­i­lies from pur­su­ing the col­lege that fits best for them.

They point to higher grad­u­a­tion rates and job place­ment rates at their in­sti­tu­tions as proof that stu­dents get what they pay for.

Ni­a­gara Univer­sity es­ti­mated that Ex­cel­sior had a mi­nor im­pact on en­roll­ment this fall. The univer­sity had been “run­ning ahead” on de­posits last spring and then ex­pe­ri­enced a “sig­nif­i­cant plateau­ing” af­ter free tu­ition was ap­proved in the state bud­get, said the Rev. James Ma­her, pres­i­dent.

“The pro­gram was ad­ver­tised as free tu­ition,” Ma­her said. “It’s re­ally more of a re­stricted schol­ar­ship pro­gram on top of the TAP (Tu­ition As­sis­tance Pro­gram) aid.”

The up­shot is that Ex­cel­sior may prod stu­dents and fam­i­lies to be­come more in­formed about how to fi­nance higher ed­u­ca­tion, Ma­her said. And in the long run, that could ben­e­fit places like Ni­a­gara that have a track record of aca­demic qual­ity and re­turn on in­vest­ment, he said.

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