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.